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Full text of "Processed World"

PROCESSED 




Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 



http://www.archive.org/details/processedworld19proc 



Processed World editorial 




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Letters 4 

Work's Diminishing Connections 11 

A Teaching Temp Talks Back 18 

From Inside the Beast, Temporarily 19 

Sand and Steel 21 

All in a Day's Work 23 

Kaiser Don't Care! SEIU Neither! 27 



¥rorr\ Our Readers 

Analysis of workplace transience 

by Dennis Hayes 

Tale of Toil: 2-yr. college teacher 

by Sofia Furia 

Tale of Toil: Temp agency counselor 

by Joni Hockert 

Fiction 

by G. Y. ]ennings 

Fiction 

by Kurt Nimmo 

Interview on Kaiser Hospital Strike 
Interview by Lucius Cabins 



Hot Under The Collar 31 More "clean room" dirt, strike settled 
Poetry 34 Bates, Clark, Raffa, Talcott, Wayman 



Thursday Morning 36 

Small Is Not Beautiful 39 

Byting Into Books 43 



Fiction 

by David Ross 

Tale of Toil: Typesetting at Bay Guardian 

by Tom Wetzel 

Whale & Reactor; Cultures in Contention 

reviews by T. Athanasiou & ]. Goldthorpe 



PRDCESSED 
LUDRLO 



ISSUE 19 • Spring 1987 



ISSN 0735-9381 
Processed World is indexed 
in the Alternative Press Index. 
All of the articles in Processed 
World reflect the views and 
fantasies of the author and not 
necessarily those of other con- 
tributors or the Bay Area 
Center for Art & Technology. 

Cover Graphic by: Doug Pray 



i-.-.^' ^ 




CONTRIBUTORS: Miss 
Zoe Noe, Primitive Morales, 
Frog, Paulina the Czarina, 
Joni Hockert, Tobie Auter, 
Lucius Cabins, Sofia Furia, 
Resident Peagan, Dennis 
Hayes, Emily Post-it, Sarkis 
Manouchian, Florence Bums, 
Ana Logue, Louis Michael- 
son, Maxine Holz, Chaz 
Bufe, David Ross, Doug P., 
Linda Thomas, JRS, DS 
Black, RL Tripp, R Boyarsky 
and many others... 



Processed World is a project 
of the Bay Area Center for 
Art & Technology, a California 
non-profit corporation. 
BACAT's mailing address is 
37 Clementina St., San Fran- 
cisco, CA 94105. Annual mem- 
berships in BACAT are $25 
and include a free subscription 
to Processed World magazine. 
Write for more information. 







Ik 




'-^■^ 




With Processed World 19 we return, 
flushed, but unchaster\ed, from our special 
sex issue with a focus on a neglected 
feature of modem life— workplace tran- 
sience. 

America is becoming a land of transient 
workers and moveable workplaces. The job 




turnover rate, supplemented by wave 
after wave of layoffs and forced early re- 
tirements, is cresting higher and higher. In 
this issue, we look not so much at the 
movement of workers away from old-line, 
dying American industries, but rather at 
the more aimless flow into and out of the 
new service, office, and electronics sector 
jobs. Where is the Information Age takir\g 
us? 

According to a Harper's Index item 
(September, 1986), the geographic center 
of the U.S. population is moving west by 
58 feet and south by 29 feet each day. 
Whether they depart from the drying husks 
of Eastern factory towns or from the bul- 
ging shantytowns of Central America and 
Asia, the white, black, brown, and yel- 
low emigres arrive in patchwork urban 
habitats that offer very little community 
stability and even less job security. Sta- 
bility and security of this sort are going 
the way of the manual typewriter 
and the great Amazon jungles. In 
place of the union hiring hall and 
the "permanent" full-time worker 
looms a "personnel services" indus- 
try that traffics in temporary and 
part-time workers, who comprise 
an ever larger proportion of the 
labor force. 

To a great extent, the new workplace 
transcience reflects the rise of low-paying, 
boring, and often dangerous "processing" 



jobs that no one can tolerate indefinitely — 
or even, it seems, for more than 20-30 
hours a week. Likewise notorious is the 
upper-tier job-hopping of salaried "profes- 
sionals," whose career trajectories are des- 
cribed increasingly as "lateral movement." 
Upward mobility, that hallowed American 
artifice, is today more elusive than 
ever. 

Does the growth in temporary and part- 
time work signal progress— a release from 
unsatisfying, fuU-time work? Does increased 
job turnover fulfill popular aspirations 
for greater individual autonomy? Probably. 
But what are the implications of work- 
place transience for workers — and for the 
workplace itself? 

Throughout contemporary American life, 
there remains much to rebel against and to 
fight for. Many people might even agree 
on a limited agenda for social change. But 
what happens when people don't stay in 
one place long enough to develop common 
agendas, or, more important, meaningful 
ties to other people? Rootless people can 
and do rebel. But they rarely do so in 
groups. Instead, the social entropy of tran- 
sience constricts the channels of rebellion 
to the most convenient, individual options — 
quitting frustrating jobs, moving away from 
uncomfortable sodal relationships, escaping 
disconcerting persor\al affairs, dodging a 
"bad record." Drifting, like gothic cowboys, 
through town after town. 

Neighborhoods, commimities, and work- 
place associations create bonds between 
people, a melding of personal and sodal 
identity. These bonds can impede the mobi- 
lity that capital, always seeking more profit- 
able horizons, historically has 
imposed upon labor. A people 
unattached to one another are 
more likely to move where 
business needs them and to 
pursue its exaggerated, com- 
petitively derived dreams of 
isolated good fortune. This is 
why a transient workforce has 
long been attractive to western capitalism, 
especicilly during periods of rapid struc- 
tural decay and transition. 




The personal autonomy to leave oppres- 
sive jobs, to "move on," is often the best 
option for individuals. During the current 
realignment of capital and culture, how- 
ever, imbridled individual mobility gives 
free rein to capital's most rapacious and 
speculative tendencies. 

What happens when workers come and 
go with increasing frequency from job to 
job? A cluster of articles explores this ques- 
tion — and raises others. In "Itinerant Cul- 
tures, Lonely Trails, Work's Diminishing 
Connections," Dermis Hayes examines the 
impermanence and loneliness of Silicon 
Valley work. Electronics has become Ameri- 
ca's largest manufacturing sector. But un- 
like auto, steel and previous such employers, 
volatile electrorucs firms rely essentially on 
a transient workforce. With the deploy- 
ment of immigrant, temporary, and highly 
mobile professional workers, workplace 
organizing — and by implication, the power 
to strike for better conditions, wages, and 
benefits— has eluded high-tech workers. Is 
the workplace vanishing as a focus 
for collective rebellion? As electronics 
products assist in the economic tran- 
sition to more servile, machine-paced 
office and shop work, workplace 
transience is structured into more and 
more occupations. In "Small Is Not 
Beautiful" Tom Wetzel describes the 
discontents and hypocrisy of the 5F Bay 
Guardian, a rationally known "progressive" 
San Francisco weekly that has buffeted its 
workers with job-displacing automation 
and willfuU neglect. Wetzel documents 
failed attempts to organize among workers 
made transient by low pay and by part- 
time job assignments. 



T A L 



H £ 




The author is heartened by the success 
of the Industrial Workers of the World 
(IWW), who vigorously, if temporarily, 
organized transient workers early in 
this century. At that time, however, the 
spirit of rebellion was given an immediately 
social outlook by the practical, often revo- 
lutionary, trade uiuon traditions of Euro- 
pean immigrant workers. More recently, 
American uiuor« have lined up with baiUcs 
to sell credit cards, have co-engineered 
CIA-backed intrigues from the Philippines 
to El Salvador, and have milked dwindling 
pension funds to the exclusion of work- 
place organizing. Today's immigrants are, 
as always hopeful. But unlike their Euro- 
pean forebears, many arrive from lands 
where workplace organizing is greeted with 
American-supplied bullets fired by Ameri- 
can-trained police. 

Sophia Furia's "A Teaching Temp Talks 
Back" is a visceral expose of a public uiu- 
versity /community college system in dis- 
array and of the milieu of underpaid and 
overworked part-time teachers that increa- 
singly populate its faculty positions. S.F. 
describes the stodgy cynicism among tenured 
faculty, the bitter ironies that confront 
teachers who care about education, and 
the underdevelopment of fraternity among 
part-time teachers. Joni Hockert's view is 
'Trom Inside the Beast — Temporarily." A 
placement counselor for a temporary agency, 
Hockert tells all, including how temps 
and jobs are systematically mismatched, 
how secret discriminations result in the 
"release" of many temporary workers, and 
— in the author's case — how temporary ten^ 
counseling can be. 



I N G 



D S 




Has a nearly unbroken chain of union 
betrayals impaired our ability to imagine 
collective solutions to workplace problems? 
What happens when 
workers confront, ra- 
ther than sidestep, 
workplace problems? 
"Kaiser Don't Care, 
SEIU Neither" is a 
brief account of a 
strike by health care 
workers that ended in 
qualified defeat. But a special PW interview 
(by Lucius Cabins) with activists critical 
of, yet sympathetic to their union gene- 
rates provocative dialogue and insights into 
the dilemma of workplace organizing. Our 
periodic colunm Hot Under The Collar re- 
turns in this issue with a report on the 
unlikely settlement of a bitter and often 
violent strike by Hispanic frozen produce 
workers in Watsonville, California (see PW 
15 and 16) and the microchip industry's curious 
response to a study that found twice-normal 
miscarriage rates among its workers. 

Fiction is an appropriate genre for ex- 
ploring the trauma of the job interview — an 
occasion to which transient workers fre- 
quently must rise. Had a rough one lately? 
So has David Ross, whose 'Thursday 
Morning" gets to the clammy heart of the 
matter. Vignettes of American work and 
its discontents are captured with angst and 
verve in "All in a Day's Work" by Kurt 
Nimmo. In the tradition of James Thurber, 
G.Y. Jennings' "Sand and Steel" depicts a 
bored accountant's flirtation with the box- 
car transience of hobo life — and the hobos' 
little surprise. Thoughtful reviews of Cul- 
tures in Contention (Ed. D. Kahn & D. 
Neumaier) and Langdon Winner's The 
Whale and the Reactor, poetry you'll not 
likely see or hear elsewhere, and your let- 
ters round out the issue. 

Our little surprise is that, in contrast to 
this issue's theme, a semblance of stability 
has insinuated itself into the PW collective. 
It's not often that a core of willful people 
can coalesce for long around such an un- 
wieldy project. Frankly we're wondering if 
we shouldn't begin to worry. The chaos of 



production is somehow becoming more 
tolerable, thanks to improvements in pro- 
cess — and product, we hope. We've seen 
the puffy face of the future — desktop pub- 
lishing — and we're still blinking. But after a 
cautious look, we're taking the leap. 

Financial stability, however, has been 
less forthcoming. We've managed to con- 
tain, and even reduce, some of our pro- 
duction costs. But we are about to launch 
— gee, there it goes — er, just launched, a 
campaign to increase our circulation. That 
means higher production and distribution 
costs once again. Wampum is what is 
wanted. You could help us immediately by 
subscribing now, or by renewing your 
subscription early, or by giving a gift sub- 
scription, or by suggesting a bookstore that 
doesn't yet Carry PW, or by just leaving 
one on a bus seat. 

In the meantime, enjoy this issue, and 
think about contributing to the next one, 
which, among other topics, will explore the 
health care industry from the inside out. 
Take some time to write us a thoughtful 
letter — we've moved letters back to the front 
to emphasize PWs role as a forum for 
readers. And keep those articles, poems and 
short stories coming — hey, we'll read 
anything I 




NEXT ISSUE: 

HEALTH CARE 

from the inside out 



We want articles, cartoons, photos, 
Tales of Toil, poetry, etc. 
DEADLINE: June 15, 1987 

PROCESSED WORLD 

41 Sutter St. #1829 

San Francisco, CA 94104 

(415) 495-6823 




ULITABY WOBD PBOCESSING 

Dear PW: 

I've been enjoying PW since #14, find- 
ing your unfolding anarchist rejoinder 
against wage slavery's netv/ork of ills 
by turns entertaining, inspiring, and de- 
pressing. The "bad attitude" runs rampant 
through the military, you might not be 
surprised to hear. As a survival tool, I 
find it invaluable; for example, in some- 
thing over a year of constant use, I've 
come to view the Navy-ov«ied word pro- 
cessor I'm not typing this on as I might 
view a capable and efficient business 
partner whom I privately despised. Sitting 
before the only shipboard VDT with an 
anti-glare screen and revising most of the 
memorandums on a comfortable old IBM 
Selectric don't Inake me any less un- 
comfortable about helping to move bombs 
aroimd the Western Pacific more efficient- 
ly, and as my first and only tour draws to 
a close, I'd like to imagine that an awaken- 
ing sense of my own political importance 
isn't doomed to wither with the realiza- 
tion that I'm just part of one of this con- 
sumer society's sick jokes. In a word, 
I'm not thrilled by the idea of going back 
to temping for General Electric. 

Sometimes something clicks and my 
nights yield more than static ponder- 
ings of whether I'm dealing with love or 
confusion. 

Sincerely, S.B. USS HALEAKALA 



WHO'S BORING? 

Dear Processed People, 

Hi. Well here's the latest Twisted Image. 
Our "Businessman Special" if you will. 
Yea, we take our fair share of potshots at 
"the Boss," "Mr. Executive," "Whiteman" 
or whatever else you want to call the 
strange beast in the 3-piece suit. But in 
some ways I think that's a scape-goat cop- 
out. 

I mean is it REALLY his fault?? 

The fact is WE have to take responsi- 
bihty for ourselves for this abysmal work 
situation (and that's never easy). 

The reason most jobs are so boring, 
meaningless and unimaginative is because 
WE human beings in the 20th century are 
so boring, meaningless and unimaginative. 
The reason our jobs are so dull is because 
our spirits have become so dulled. The 
dismal hi-rise work environment merely 
reflects our deep-rooted spiritual malaise — 
an irmer drudgery. 

True, a lot of work will always be boring 
drudge: e.g. washing dishes, doing laundry, 
making beds. But this culture's genius 
for producing 40 plus full hours of drudge 
every week surely reflects some deep- 
rooted neuroses in the American psyche. 

What I'm saying is the problem is more 
a spiritual one than a political one. In 
that sense Processed World has been a 
rip-roaring success in uplifting the spirit 
of the workforce. Keep up the great work. 
—Ace Backwordsssss TWISTED IMAGE 
Odditor/pubhsher 1630 University Ave. #26 
Berkeley, CA 94703 



ANIMAL LIBEBATION... 

Dear Processed World, 

Before reading the article in PW 16, I 
had sympathized with some Animal Libe- 
ration Front activities, in both the USA 
and UK, yet I felt that their militancy 
was misdirected. That is, it generates a 
'moral panic' against animal abuse, in 
ways that divert attention away from 
human abuse — be it massacres in South 
Africa or state-sponsored terrorism and 
torture closer to home here in Northern 
Ireland. Also, the ALF seems to evade 
the question of whether it's worth sacri- 
ficing some animals in order to benefit 
people, or it implicitly answers no.' 

After reading Tony Lamanha's article, 
I thought more about how to challenge 
that loaded question, which assumes that 
the products tested — drugs, pesticides, 
cosmetics, whatever — really do benefit 
people in general. I now see better how 
the very existence of animal research 
serves to justify proliferating thousands 
more such chemicals. As the brochure you 
quoted says, 'By law, we must protect 
people from the potentially toxic effects 
of these chemicals through testing with 
animals.' By this logic, animal liberation- 
ists are portrayed as preventing research- 
ers from protecting us. 

Apart from technically 'uimecessary' 
cosmetics, even the 'necessary' drugs have 
become so as a result of the disease- 
inducing envirorunent that this society 
has created and that the medical system 

PROCESSED WORLD 19 



LETTER 



S! 



tends to obscure. One of many examples 
is the chemical input into the high-tech 
agriculture that results from the logic of 
proht-maximization. 

From that perspective, perhaps we can 
reformulate the loaded question. We can 
value people more than animals and there- 
fore opp>ose certain kinds of animal re- 
search — not simply when it is cruel, but 
also when it ideologically aids the chemi- 
cal abuse of humans in our 'diseased 
culture.' This perspective would be worth 
developing in some detail, regardless of 
whether the present animal liberationists 
are inclined to take it up. More generally 
the problem can be located within the 
capitalist competition that generates new 
chemical commodities as technical fixes 
for social problems which themselves 
arise from still other commodities. 

This whole area would be of interest to 
our new journal. Science as Culture. 
[This new magazine is well worth check- 
ing out, used to be Radical Science 
Journal — write it c/o Free Association 
Books, 26 Freegrove Rd., London N7 
9RQ, England— ed.] 

L.L. — London 



PSYCHOLOGIGAL DECENTEBDiGS..? 

Dear Processed World, 

Met four of your workers at the 'Split 
Shift' Colloquium in Vancouver B.C. 
August 21-24, 1986. Really enjoyed your 
(their) presentation, and as a studying 
philosopher in the field of information 
exchange, language poet, photographer 
and (at the moment) layout production 
person, can appreciate the situational 
attitude you invoke. 

At the moment, I am moving into an 
analysis of the irrational (derivationally, 
aperiodic) equations of expression map- 
ping the psychological decenterings 
which occur at the interface of the Marx- 
ian concept superstructure (with reference 
to the field opened by Gilles Deleuze's 
Anti-Oedipus, and his superstructure- 
superego [Marx/Freud] interrelation) and 
the concept of electronic substrates (re- 
ferencing Chomsky's work on depth gram- 
mars); I'm wondering if you can offer 
any assistance with this by way of refe- 
rence or insight. 

In particular, since moving back to 
Toronto Ontario and obtaining employ- 
ment, I have picked up a problem that 
is annoyingly nasty. My new workplace 
utilizes a radio station (AM frequency 1430) 
which seems to delight in games of 
Hegelian domination. Although I can 
easily outline them (that is, induce dis- 
semination beyond the stratified archive 
of their reference), I can not undo the 



para/situational focus of their panopticon. 

Any suggestions, aid, insight, possibility 
of inducing radicle alterity? I can't swntch 
the station, or use a walkman, so I'm 
probably going to have to find a way to 
ax their medial substrate and induce an 
inverse decentering of their focal in- 
tentionality. I've been under this for three 
weeks. 

On a lighter note, are there any speci- 
fic areas you are looking for in theory/ 
image/expression? I have a 12 year photo 
file of images 'significant' in a Barthian 
sense, as well as several files of post- 
structuralist composition. Glad to share. 
Hope to hear from you soon. 

Sincerely, J.D.B.M. — Toronto 

TBIVIALIZATI0N7L. 

Hi there — 

While I appreciate your having printed 
"My Date With Holly Near," I must cry 
out in rage against your having described 
it as "SATIRE" (!!!!)— yet should I be sur- 
prised at yet another example of triviali- 
zation of female experience by the pa- 
triarchy— {YEAti.) 

In sadness & wrisdom, 

Ann-Marie (and others in T.H.R.U.S.H.) 

NYC 

AFAILDBE? 

Dear PW, 

According to the dictates of the sexual 
revolution and all self-respecting baby- 
boomer married yuppie parents, I am a 
failure. I neither coupled nor started a 
family and I was stuck in a lousy job for 
fifteen years. But I don't feel like a fai- 
lure. To society, though, the never -married, 
never-coupled woman is invisible, half 
dead or a ludicrously frustrated spin- 
ster whose tribulations evoke only amuse- 
ment from the superior "fulfilled." We 



don't exist, only happy married couples 
do. The highest rated sitcom is about a 
healthily sexual, wealthy traditionalist 
obstetrician and his lawyer wife and 
their numerous offspring. But it might just 
as well be about a Neanderthal tribal 
chieftain surrounded by proofs of his man- 
hood. The undertones ring out paeans 
to old, reliable patriarchy and to some, 
apparently, the hope is held out for some 
juicily clini-"joyous" lithotomy-position 
delivery room scenes. (The star also has 
a comedy routine out about his wife's 
labor.) Meanwhile, the world is slowly 
rotting from STD's, pornography and a 
concomitant rise in puritannical repres- 
sion, not to mention an astronomical 
rise in lawsuits against obstetricians. 

But I am outside that. In my case, it 
was either accept the Yasir Arafat clones 
thrown at me or remain single. I chose 
the latter, with no regrets. (With relief, 
too. They wanted to go out with me 
again.) Of course, I can't share stories 
about my children or spouse, because I 
don't have any. But then, I also don't 
have to worry about AIDS or penicillin 
resistant gonorrhea, just sneers ("You can 
talk if you ever have any children!") 

I don't know what hurts more, not being 
coupled or being discriminated against 
because of the situation. But then I think 
of the Yasir Arafat clones, roaming mena- 
cingly in wolf pack fashion from singles 
fimction to singles function halfway across 
towm and I get down on my knees and 
thank God I'm single and I hope and 
pray that by this time they are married. 

There is a person with whom I share a 
mutual attraction, but he is outgroup (dif- 
ferent religion) but far, far nicer thctn 
anybody I have ever gone out with. I 
don't even know if he's married. In fact, 
I don't know much about him at all. 




PROCESSeO WORLD 19 



ETTERS! 



Maybe the way this crazy world is rotting 
beneath its most recently acquired veneer 
of hypocritical wholesomeness, I should 
be glad it's only a friendship I have with 
him. Maybe Somebody up there is look- 
ing out after me. I may also just happen 
to wind up having the last laugh, if a 
somewhat grim one. 

Anyway, issue #18 was a wUd one with 
a lot to ponder. I found myself laughing 
at some darkly humorous parts until 
my eyes teared. And I'm hiding it under 
my pillow. 

Auntie Mimi — Merion Stn. PA 




TOO STRAIT FOR HE! 

PW: 

Please cancel... if you can't make a 
little fim (i.e. make visible) of gay men 
from S.F. ya gotta be outa touch — 

eat shit & smile, 
anonymous — Boston, MA 

Dear Anonymous, 

We get a slashed cover and a vague, 
though emphatic, charge — 'Itoo strait (sic) 
lor me. " I don't know what to make of it. 
It's hard to respond to shot-gun denun- 
ciations. So here is a response composed 
around the pellets. 

Processed World just did a sex issue 
and you say there wasn't anything, or at 
least enough, on gay stuii. But to be ac- 
curate, I wrote a Tale of Toil about work- 
ing at the AIDS Hotline, Jeff Goldthorpe 
wrote a fictionalized piece on a bisexual 
man's AIDS anxiety, and Manning's article 
on the sexual revolution touched on les- 
bian and gay concerns. 

Okay, there wasn't a big feature article 
on 'the GAY ISSUE." And indeed, may- 
be there should have been. There are a 
lot of articles, graphics, stories, and 
poems out there that PW should print and 
doesn't simply because they don't come 
our way. 

One thing in the issue that I myself got 
angry at was Ana Logue's Talking Heads 
piece. That tautological bullshit about 
heterosexuality being the "inerging of 
male and female sexuality," supported by 
a rather shaky Masters and Johnson study 
was really too much to take. Only a kind 
of misapplied sociology would attempt to 
quantify imagination and as for connect- 
ing sex and effort — how positively Roman 
Catholic! Also, as a matter of fact, some 
men climax very gently and only after 
time am I aware of when they come. I 
would never be boorish enough to ask 
directly, so I inquire discreetly, "Is that 
enough?" 

— Mark Leger 



S13 HAIRCDT BEVISITED 

Dear PW gang. 

Great issue. Of course it did happen 
to be on one of my favorite topics, but 
that's no excuse. I don't have much pro- 
found to say about the thang other than 
it worked, read well, and had some of 
your best graphics yet. 

The one thing I can't figure out is what 
Chaz Bufe means by "the $13-haircut 
level of awareness." Is this supposed to 
be good or bad? I ask because I go to my 
neighborhood barber here on 16th St. 
and he charges me $13 when he cuts 
my hair. (Which is usually about a month 
and a half later than would look best.) 
Am I paying too much or too little? Is 
Chaz looking down on me because he 
gets $22 haircuts? Or is he looking down 
on me because anyone in their sane minds 
wouldn't pay $13 for a lousy haircut? Or 
maybe he actually thinks that those of us 
into that $13-haircut level of awareness 
are the real coo7 guys, i.e. the blue col- 
lar workers, etc. who frequent his theatre. 
I durmo. I can't tell from his article. This 
is obviously an important new concept 
in political analysis and deserves clari- 
fication. 

Other than that, keep up the good work. 

Bip, 

J.K., a subscriber — S.F. 

(not to be confused with the J.K., a 

subscriber — S.F. in #18's letter column.) 



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NOT ALL WOMEN ARE STRAIGHT 

Dear PW, 

First I'd better say that I like certain 
kinds of pom, hate other kinds & I'm 
anti-censorship. And boy, did I have 
trouble vnth Chaz Bute's article. I found 
parts of the article simply annoying, and 
other parts simply infuriating. In the 
aimoying category: 

1 . I don't like the authoritative way in 
which C.B. states "facts" that simply 
aren't well researched. He says that the 
anti-pom feminist groups ignore splatter 
films & objectification in advertising, 
which isn't true. WAVPAM, WAP and the 
very scary NY group WAR all focus on 
these areas — but it's not as press worthy 
as the media-hyped "war on pornography." 

2. C.B. says there's no evidence linking 
pornography & rape. Actually, there are 
studies which do make this link— the 
link is as tenuous as it is in most "social 
science" studies — but it's interesting. For 
example, in a 1981 UCLA study a group 
of 500 young men (white, middle-class) 
were given five versions of a pornographic 
story to read, which ranged from vanilla 
sex between a man & woman, to one in 
which the woman was tortured by the 
man. 70% of the men found the version 
in which the woman was in the most pain 
to be the most erotic. 50% of the men, 
when asked, said that if they could rapw 
a woman and get away with it, they would. 
(This compared to 5% of the non-p)om- 
watching control group.) 

3. As I said, I find these studies in- 
teresting—and that's it. They are not 
"facts" or "proof" of anything. And I 
don't take kindly to C.B.'s presenting the 
1970 Presidential Commission on Porno- 
graphy and Henry Hudson as "authori- 
ties" on pornography that I'm supposed 
to trust. I get govenunent authority shoved 
up my butt every day, thank you very 
much. And since C.B. Ukes Henry Hud- 
son's statement about the lack of "scien- 

PROCESSED WORLD 19 



LETTER 



S! 



tific data" linking p)om & rape — where's 
the "scientific data" linking the state of 
Denmark's deregulation of pom and the 
drop in reported sex crimes? Couldn't 
something else also affect the drop in re- 
porting to police? What is a sex crime in 
Denmeirk anyway? And whose statistics 
are these? Why are we supposed to be- 
lieve them? 

Now we're getting to the truly fucking 
infuriating part. 

1 . The idea that women objectify men 
for money the way men objectify women 
for appearance ("every bit as much, if 
not more") is really insulting when you 
look at the real economic reasons why a 
woman (straight or not) might seek out a 
man with money; and one line about the 
"economic discrimination women face" 
does not do justice to women's situation. 
We know that women have traditionally 
been economically dependent on men. 
We know that single women support 
children far more often than single men 
do — and support them on far less. We 
know that most poor people in this coim- 
try are women and children. In light of 
this, the stuff about women looking for 
middle-class men to "entertain them in 
style" seems almost gruesomely ironic. 

2. "Most women are drawn to money 
and power Uke buzzards to carrion." !!!!! 
And most men aren't???? 



3. "A great number (of) women won't 
even look at low-paid men because of 
class prejudice..." The word women does 
not mean "straight, white, middle class 
female." More clearly: NOT ALL WOMEN 
ARE STRAIGHT. And on: most working 
class women form relationships with men 
of their own class, at least partially be- 
cause of shared backgroimds and interests. 
Class prejudice? NOT ALL WOMEN ARE 
MIDDLE CLASS. And not all working 
class people are men, and not all blacks 
are men... 

4. The idea about women being able to 
get laid more easily than men — C.B. men- 
tions the risks of pregnancy a little glibly 
for my tastes. (Think of the difficulty a 
poor teenage girl might have in obtain- 
ing reliable birth control. Or a teenager 
in a small town.) And finally, C.B. men- 
tions the repressive conditioning that 
keeps women from satisfying their sexual 
needs (with all those available men, the 
implication seems to be — but since I've 
already mentioned the existence of dyke- 
dom with some heavy-duty capitals...) 
I suggest that if more men could overcome 
their repressive conditioning and explore 
fantasies of loving men, there would be 
more sexually satished men and perhaps, 
but not necessarily, fewer Back Door 
customers. 



Yours in ire & anarchy, 
Alessandra — Brooklyn, NY 
P.S. Hated Wenda. Everyone hates white 
middle class women. Cuz they've just 
enough power to make it easy, and just 
enough weakness to make it safe. Even 
white middle class women like me hate 
white middle class women. Like me. 



A BOOI OF LOfE? 

Dear Friends, 

Issue #18 was interesting. My only 
reservation concerns Chaz Bufe's article, 
"Poles 'n Holes..." The comment about 
St. Paul's attitude toward women is re- 
ductionist and urmecessary; the quote 
from the Bible was taken out of context. 
In the same passage, Paul says, 'The hus- 
band must give the wife what is due to 
her, and the wife equally must give the 
husband his due." (I Corinthians 7.3) 
While Chaz Buie's claim that "male domi- 
nance has its roots in antiquity" is true 
for the most part, a skewed interpre- 
tation of the New Testament, which is 
about love, will not bolster the argument 
any. 

Sincerely, K.M.R. — Norman, OK 

Dear Admirers, 

Gosh! I'm flattered that you all thought 
my article was so important that you de- 




PROCESSED WORLD 19 



ETTERS! 



aided to send your compliments. Now to 
answer your queries and comments .... 

J.K. — 7726 Back Door was sandwiched 
between a hair styling salon and a poodle 
grooming parlor (both featuring $13 cuts), 
and it might have been my imagination, 
but it sure seemed like an awful lot of 
customers would be chpped and groomed 
and then pad on over to the Back Door . . . 

Sorry K.M.R., but Nietzsche was right 
when he said, 'One had better put on 
gloves before reading the New Testament. 
The presence of so much filth makes it very 
advisable. " Neglecting the fact that K.M.B. 
cited the wrong verse (it's actually Ephes- 
ians 5:22), the statement that this misogy- 
nist declaration was taken "out of context" 
is downright breathtaking. The entire bible 
is an exercise in misogyny. I would advise 
anyone with a strong stomach who doubts 
this to read the miserable thing. A book of 
love? Please! Consider this: "If any man 
come to me, and hate not his father and 
mother, and wife, and children, and breth- 
ren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, 
he caimot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26) 
A few other relevant passages, among 



dozens I could mention, are: Matthew 
19:12, 1 Corinthians 7:1, and 1 Corinth- 
ians 11:9. 

Taking Alessandra's comments in order: 
I'm unaware of the supposed anti-violence 
"focus" of anti-pomography groups such 
as those she mentions. The 'foci" I am 
aware of are attempts to pass anti-erotic 
censorship laws (often in close alliance 
with right-wing authoritarians) and verbal 
and physical harassment of porn buyers 
and sellers. 

The point I made in reference to the 
presidential commissions is simply that 
these panels were both appointed by con- 
servative anti-pom presidents, and, 
especially in the case of the Meese Com- 
mission, were seeking validation of pre- 
conceived anti-pom attitudes. And they 
could find no real evidence to support 
their views! One would have to be blind 
not to see the significance of this. 

The results of legalization of pornog- 
raphy in Denmark (a drop in the number 
of reported sex crimes) are common 
knowledge. See for example Look, 7-29-69, 
and US News & World Report 10-19-70. 










DAMN GOOD SATIRE! 

PW: 

Hey! It was delightful and entertaining 
and p.c. and damn good satire to have 
published James Pollack's extraordinary 
feature: 'WENDA'. Great tag for a name 
of this human phenomenon. (Was James 
ever, in real-life, married to one of these 
'Wenda' women, I wonder..? Wouldn't 



surprise me.. Maybe his mother became 
one!) At any rate, I think he deserves 
the National Lampoon literary award if 
there was such a thing. 

Mean while... Overall, I found this story 
feature to be poetic prose with poetic 
justice. Frank Zappa would love it and if 
it came out of his own think-tank, he'd 



As to what "infuriates" her, please 
notice that she doesn't deny anything I 
say. She simply attempts to explain away 
any responsibility women might have for 
these situations, and to lay blame on men. 

I deliberately used inflammatory termi- 
nology such as "buzzards" and "carrion" 
to enrage readers such as Alessandra. 
For far too long sexual politics, especial- 
ly in leftists circles, have been discussed 
in terms of blame and guilt — the guilt of 
men. And I'm sick of it. I'm sick of men 
being presented as evil beings and women 
being presented as non -responsible (and 
thus powerless) victims. If you consider 
women responsible adults, it follows that 
they're responsible, just as men are, for 
the maintenance of this sick society. 

Women and men do "objectify" each 
other. Capitalism has turned us into a so- 
ciety of hookers and Johns — a society in 
which men seek women because of their 
looks and women seek men because of 
their money and power. If we ever want 
to move beyond this sorry situation, we 
need to recognize how the attitudes and 
behaviors of both sexes have been warped. 
And we need to quit blaming each other. 
—Chaz Bufe 

record it with some of his surrealistic 
jazz in monologue flavors. "Wenda" is 
and was truly SUBLIME SURREALISM (!) 
MMMMmmm! It tasted very, very good 
to my mind, and I'm speaking as an 
American woman in my 30s who feels a 
revulsion to "those" kind of women as 
much as Mr. Pollack, Zappa, Fellini, 
Warhol, and Mr. Funt, and Ernie Kovacs, 
and Nichols & May, and all the rest of 
them did and do! 

I was struck by the begirming where 
it is described "Wenda was everywhere. 
You never knew..." "...at the Ferrari place 
selling Ferrari..." I flashed on two women 
I know who sell cars. They're terribly 
boring and pretentious himians, like a 
'Wenda,' but they belong to another sub- 
culture-group called recovered alcohohcs. 

"They all had make-up on back to their 
ears.." That struck a high note for me. 
A Zappa-chord! And, yes, of course, to 
simply simplify it all in one or two words, 
this story-message is about phonies' and 
'clones' who happen to be female. Zappa 
did a song-talk-satire about gay-clone- 
men, some years back. The phrase, 'tran- 
sient sensuality'... I'm still pondering this 
in various interpretations to fit my exis- 
tence, but I do like it. 

The reader must flow with the surrealism 
of Mr. Pollack's writing as it goes deeper 
and deeper in all senses of the word, 
'deeper.' Soon he's satirizing the idiot- 
clone-high-tech-white-me73 in his story! 



PROCESSED WORLD 19 



LETTER 



S! 



(That's how / see it!) I was acquainted with 
Bukowsld. That guy is a 'pig' in the 1960s/ 
70s put-down sense of the word. 

Oh! I noticed dozens of 'Wendas' in Las 
Vegas!! Where else? Y'can't get out of 
Vegas or Tahoe without seeing one or 
accidentally touching one, as much as you 
may try NOT to! Of course, there's 'SEXY' 
Wenda-type-clones who pose naked for 
assorted magazines that cater to unimagi- 
native, infantile, perpetually adolescent 
men, who for the most part have a dick- 
head for a brain. (Though some of them 
give good head, don't get me wrong). 

Finally, "Womankind in the real"? That's 
debatable, sir. You get pretty carried 
away, don't you? Now your story is per- 
ceived by me to being a nightmare- 
creation by two woman -hating, miso- 
gynists who suffer gynophobia, yet they 
have a career in producing, creating, 
MANNEQUINS for the most expensive 
clothing stores in the world! They sym- 
bolically "kill" the images their manne- 
quins represent and try to sell to women 
of the "civilized," white-world. The story 
is two and three-fold as a reader such as 
myself can see the maimequin, "Wenda", 
became an actual human female and then 
she becomes a maimequin and then she 
becomes a human again, and back to a 
maimequin where the two designer-low- 
tech-high-tech-ambitious but disheartened 
creators symbolically kill 'her' in a final, 
angry gesture toward the world of manu- 
facturing/materialism. I also see this story 
evolving to 'making-fun' of male DOC- 
TORS and aU that they've tried, invented, 
explored, poked, probed, strobed upon 
women, both physically AND mentally. 
So be it. (This is after a 3rd reading!) 

best wishes, A.S. — Santa Ciuz 

A WORD FBOM PRISON 

Dearly beloved, 

how the hell are ya, hmmm? Really do 
hope all is well as you can handle it. 
From the looks of it, y'all are still pushing 
the boulders... ah, but i notice that you've 
got a few more real proles involved — 
good show. 

And i notice that you've moved also... 
hopefully for the better or at least with the 
potential of getting better... It seems that 
the collective has grown a bit and also 
stabilized into something of a family or 
menage of several, but i would be most 
interested to know something of what has 
developed besides the demise of Bank of 
America... 

But at 17 issues the raison d'etre of 
such an effort — with all its vituperations 
against management, the state, and 



(sometimes) capital — must be becoming 
something of a fixation. Indeed, 'my' ar- 
gument for PW is that even though the 
accusations of "closet" whatever-ism may- 
be true you are at least doing something 
more than merely talking about some cor- 
rect line or engaging in reifications as if 
the occasional allusions to sabotage and 
petty theft is of any real consequence to 
the status quo. The average person thinks 
in terms of marketable skills and career 
opportunity as a result of the condition- 
ing and education via the existing social 
institutions and media. The pressure to 
conform to this rat race is most evident 
in the growing number of job-related in- 
juries, illness, turnover and suicide among 
the young conscripts into the job market. 
You make this public... 

In any case, one would think the point 
of PW is to expose, not only the obvious 
transgressions of capital but the available 
alternatives as well. Indeed, someone 
should ask how it is that so many of these 
things one may see in the company or 
upon quasi-anaichists or anti-authoritarians 
is manufactured and produced by capi- 
talists. How is it that there is little of real 
value or use resulting from this 'milieu' 
of the avant garde? Other than genres 
of entertairmient or distraction what are 
we to expect of these relationships — the 
nonetheless wealthy socialists to the poor 
would-be anarchists who eventually sell 
out for the imperatives of existence as 
just another number? We shall see #18, 
19, 20, ad infinitum. Meanwhile the 
ongoing worldwide civil war grows near 
and more prisons will be needed or more 



workers... and of course more computers 
and data processorzzzzz. 

Well, ya see how the whole thing is 
he&ded for something only reformed au- 
thoritarians can understand but if these 
new prisons are any indication of what is 
afoot then all that futuristic, monitored 
workers, and taylorized work stations is 
a certainty — not that it will be really 
necessary for the average proletariat 
but rather that it is becoming part of the 
accoutrementation of the corporate state 
and authority — but so is the failure of the 
anti-authoritarian intelligentsia to pro- 
vide that necessary orientation and dis- 
cipline by example... 

Most of the commodities, and social 
services are developed and produced 
via the machinations of the status quo — 
but what are the alternatives? That you 
or we the readers "live well" is of very 
little support to those people who must 
hve in the streets or/and fight to survive... 

Therefore it is said that you only repre- 
sent the symbolic and part time 'bad 
attitudes' and at best the intellectual 
dilettantes — and thus an animosity builds 
in spite of attempts of the more expe- 
rienced to maintain the focus and con- 
scientiousness for what is crucial to any 
real future choice... My personal hope is 
that you at least succeed far beyond #18 
etc. But it is also hoped that you realize 
that what is (or is not) done today serves 
to define future alternatives and the mat- 
ter of choosing (you kno' 'solidarity'). 
Nevertheless, take care of yourselves — 
Onward, Obiter Dictum 
Folsom Prison, California 




PROCESSED WORLD 19 



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Lonely Trails, Itinerant Cultures 

Work's Diminishing Connections 



.merica's electronics industry cultivates the fabric cubicle partition. 
Rising to the height of stockyard pens, the partitions, in all shapes and 
colors, intrude nearly everywhere. They connect and isolate circuit- 
board assemblers, shipping clerks, systems programmers, and market- 
ing analysts. Alongside windows, even managers and vice-presidents 
sequester themselves in the fabric corrals. 

Enclosing assembler and executive alike, the partitions confer the appearance of social 
similarity, suggest the unity of entrepreneurial purpose. But the impermanence of the par- 
tition design — its quick assembly and disassembly — reveals deeper meaning. Expanding 
and contracting with the fortunes of each company, the partitions shape the fragile edifice 
of Silicon Valley. They are an emblem for the transience of its workers as well as the pro- 
found loneliness of its work. 

The industry has adapted the partitions and those who work within them to its volatile 
project — making new technologies for which there often is neither precedent nor market. 
Small or large, the electronics firm must cope with disruptive forces: instant success, ill- 
fated market debuts, compressed development schedules, sudden product obsolescence, 
unexpected and unrelenting competition, unforeseen "bugs" and disloyal financial sponsors. 
These erratic forces prompt each firm to insist on flexible constellations of workers and 
managers — in effect, to pass on its instability to the labor market. 

Electronics employers are fickle. They fire and hire to automate a labor-process here, 
relocate a plant there, work overtime on a product today, cancel or postpone it in favor 
of another product tomorrow. It is as if America's largest manufacturing industry,! after 
decades of development, still cannot make up its mind what, exactly, it will make, how 
and where it will make it, or whether it is in it for the long run. This is why electronics 
firms favor the impermanence of the cubicle partitions. 

VOLATILE CAPITAL, TRANSIENT LABOR 

The volatility of electronics capital is in step with the lurching rhythms of contemporary 
capitalism. The industry came of age during the changeover of the U.S 
economy from manufacturing to service-based industries, especially 
to retail sales and financial services. Electronics firms 
reflect this shift, since the industry's pro 
ducts have made it possible 
An abiding design 
objective 



'Tor better or worse, a 
group of workers is no longer 'stuck* 
with each other at a workplace year in, year out. 
Instead, a wandering occupational itinerary frag- 
ments and truncates shared experience.** 



PBOCfiSf D WORLD 19 



of electronics technology — ever faster data 
transmission — mirrors the priorities of an 
economy that now enlarges itself by accele- 
rating the circulation of capital, rather than 
by manufacturing it anew. Or so it seems. 
After the electronics industry itself, and 
the military, the swelling "industries" of 
retail sales, fast-food, financial, insurance, 
banking, brokerage, and business services 
absorb most new U.S. -made computer 
productsj. In fact, these non-manufacturing 
enterprises are among the fastest growing 
parts of the civilian economy 3. Their growth 
depends largely on the speed with which 
they provide their services. Brokerage 
firms attract more business by allowing 
clients on-line access to market trading. 



Banks make float-profit by processing out- 
standing checks and notes faster. Corpor- 
ations enlarge "idle" cash assets via rapid 
currency and portfolio transfers. Restaur- 
ant chains boost sales by delivering fast 
food faster during peak hours. So profit- 
able, and thus crucial, is the demand for 
faster computer processing that electronics 
products now become rapidly obsolete. 
Electronics firms used to make products 
with average market lifetimes of five years. 
As of late 1986, it was 1.5 years and 
shrinking!. This makes the entrepreneur 
wary. His product lines — and his assembly 
lines — are always changing. 

We think of Silicon Valley as a manu- 
facturing center. As it exports more and 



WORKING TO LIVE 

OR LIVING TO WORK??? 



Why have I declined full-time employ- 
ment? I enjoy the flexibility, i chose to 
hire on as a supplemental, a.k.a. part- 
time employee, for a large computer 
company in Silicon Valley three years 
ago. During that time I have been of- 
fered full time employment four times 
and have declined. I work 4 days a 
week, choose the hours I want to work, 
and get paid a handsome hourly wage. 
Feeling like I've been in a pressure 
cooker for four days a week, I need 
that extra day off to keep my sanity. I 
decided some years ago not to "live 
for work" but to "work to live." Every- 
one needs to strike a balance between 
their work lives and their personal 
lives and I'm no exception. 

Unlike a temp, a supplemental em- 
ployee is considered part of the com- 
pany by fellow workers and manage- 
ment. I can participate in company 
activities (i.e.: picnics, employee dis- 
count club, Christmas dinner and 
dance), if I choose. With the exception 
of dental benefits and sick leave I re- 
ceive the same benefits as full time 
employees. 

I am in an enviable position. Full- 
time employees who do the same job 
as 1 do are salaried employees, which 
means that they do not receive over- 
time pay. They work whatever hours 
it takes to get the job done. In most 
cases full-time employees do not re- 
ceive "comp time" (days off in lieu of 
working extra hours) but because 1 am 
a supplemental employee, the company 
has to pay me for every hour I work. 
During peak periods that could mean 
fifty hours a week (10 hours of which 
are time-and-a-half) or in slow times 
twenty-four hours a week. Fortunately. 
1 usually work twenty-eight to thirty 
hours a week. Longer weeks tend to 



make me grumpy. 

During a recent, massive lay-off at 
my company, people with over fifteen 
years experience there were laid off 
while many supplemental employees 
like myself were kept on. Why? 

Supplemental employees traditionally 
were hired directly by the company 
to accomodate additional work required 
during peak periods to "supplement" 
the work force. The official intent is to 
lay off supplementals or reduce their 
hours during slow times but this is 
mythology. 

The corporate mentality Is to keep 
only those employees who are compe- 
tent, diligent, cooperative, have more 
than one job skill and are willing to do 
whatever is asked of them (sound like 
Superman?). !f a part-time employee 
fits the bill, all the better. The company 
gets more "bang for the buck," mean- 
ing you pay them only for the "hours 
they work " and the benefits are cheaper 
too. 

The fact is that the U.S. economy Is 
being transformed by the widespread 
and growing use of part-time em- 
ployees. According to a report released 
by the joint Economic Committee of 
Congress on December 19, 1986, 
"nearly all new jobs created between 
1979 and 1984 in the U.S. paid less 
than $7,000 annually, while the num- 
ber of jobs paying $28,000 or more 
fell." The report explained the preva- 
lence of low paying Jobs by citing dis- 
proportionate increases in part time 
work, including the redesign of full 
time jobs Into part-time jobs. 

Part-time work is on the agenda. 
What will become of those who need 
a full-time income in the growing part- 
time labor market? 

Emily PosHt 



more of its manufacturing jobs offshore, 
however, much of Silicon Valley has come 
to resemble a sprawling product design- 
and-development service for Japanese, 
Korean, and other Asian-based manufac- 
turing concerns,. In 1984, managers (13%) 
and salaried professional and technical 
workers (43%) accoimted for 56% of the 
Valley's high tech workforce, while pro- 
duction workers accounted for 30% 6- 
This is lopsided compared with the 70% 
figure for production workers in U.S. 
manufacturing at large. The relatively 
fixed, and thus long-term, investment re- 
quired for domestic manufacturing is not 
favored in the boardrooms of the venture 
capital concerns and conglomerates that 
increasingly control the Valley's electronics 
industry and its entrepreneurs?. The en- 
trepreneurial spirit that is widely believed 
to animate Silicon Valley is really an in- 
carnation of the gambler's lust that has 
seized the American economy. 

The short-sighted quest of its financial 
sponsors and the fluctuations of its markets 
make the electronics business iiJierently 
unstable. Like the nervous contestants in 
a vaudeville amateur show, electronics 
entrepreneiirs must line up for the chance 
to make their sponsors' money dance. In 
place of the hook that yanks ill-starred 
performers from the stage, a standard 
clause in a startup contract allows those 
who provide the capital to fire the start- 
up firm's president at any time, for any 
reasons. According to an ongoing Silicon 
Valley survey, less than one in four firms 
survive the rigors of startup— the rest 
either fail or are "acquired. "9 

Instability imbues the computer-building 
workplace with an urgency that outsiders 
interpret as the inspired effort about which 
so much has been written. There are sub- 
lime moments of excitement, of unity be- 
tween workers and their work. But it is 
the brief excitement of frerujied effort, 
the soldierly unity of a military campaign. 
Volatile circumstances create and dis- 
solve, more than sustain, the fabled com- 
munities of work in Silicon Valley. Sud- 
denly or gradually, temporarily or perma- 
nently, the firm's growth slackens, the mar- 
ket evolves away from its products, the 
work subsides, and the workers are reas- 
signed or withdrawn from the front. The 
ephemeral fabric partition ebbs and flows 
while, expandable and expendable, the 
itinerant worker comes and goes. 

Following the trails blazed by micro- 
electronics capital, the itinerant worker 
travels from one company to another, find- 
ing work where it can be had and working 
fiercely until a layoff or another job looms. 
The itinerant worker spans the occupation- 
al gamut from microchip fab operator to 
systems analyst, from assembler to engi- 
neer. The itinerant's working conditions, 
status, pay, and workday culture vary 
widely too. His or her immediate guises in- 
clude the temporary worker, the immi- 



PROCCSSeO WORLD 79 



grant worker, even the skilled "profession- 
al. " Many are likely to quit, transfer, or 
be laid off within a year or two — provided 
their department, division, or company 
lasts that long. Those who last longer 
watch a revolving door of new workers 
arriving and old ones exiting. 

Doris is a single, 37-year-old working 
mother who grew up in Silicon Valley. In 
twenty years, Doris has worked as a cir- 
cuit board assembler and production ex- 
peditor in eight jobs with half a dozen 
Silicon Valley electronics firms. Though 
her Fortune-500 employers have been 
the most stable lo, Doris has been laid off 
twice, fired once, and has collected unem- 
ployment three times. (She qualifies for, 
but declines, welfare assistance.) Her long- 
est stint at one job lasted nearly four years, 
her shortest, several weeks. The day after 
our interview, she lost her most recent 
job, which had lasted nine months. Doris 
is an itinerant worker. 

Victor is an itinerant worker, too. Victor 
is a single 30-year-old systems programmer 
who moved to Silicon Valley from New 
York in 1980. Victor's first electronics em- 
ployer "flew me out to California and 
shipped my car in a big moving van." 
Since then, according to Victor, "it's been 
one new company to get in bed with af- 
ter another." In less than seven years, 
Victor has held four jobs. Unlike Doris, 
he has never been laid off or fired. In- 
stead, he has carefully picked his next job 
on the basis of his technical interest in 
the projects each offered. Victor's interest 
in his current project is waning, and so he 
contemplates his next move. 

As with Doris and Victor, expendability 
affects the forms a worker's transience 
assumes; in Silicon Valley, the Dorises 
are laid off much more often than the Vic- 
tors. Programmers' and engineers' career- 
hopping is more Likely voluntary — planned 
to minimize financial and emotional trauma. 
When salaried workers move on, it is typ- 
ically through a web of "professional 
friends," a far-flung network of instru- 
mental acquaintances who are periodic- 
ally consulted and polled for access to a 
new job. Firms encourage the networks 
(which sometimes include wage workers), 
offering bonuses to employees who bring 
new workers "on board." 

The networks, and the cavalcade of 
changing jobs, breed disinterest in the 
more traditional connections between 
workers. For better or for worse, a group 
of workers is no longer "stuck" with each 
other at a workplace year in, year out. 
Instead, a wandering occupational itiner- 
ary fragments and truncates shared exp- 
perience. In the shifting soil of short-lived 
employment, the itinerant worker's roots 
must be shallow, retractable. 

When I asked Doris if she kept up with 
workers from previous jobs, she was mild- 
ly surprised by my question. "Not really," 
she replied, adding that she would occa- 




II 




.^lili 


i ti 1 




"Hey Frank, this one's busted. 
Why don'cha send to stock for 
a new one?" 



sionally get a call from a former fellow 
worker. Regarding her current workplace, 
she complained that "I have no friends." 
She didn't really mingle much with workers 
during nonwork hours because she was 
so busy. Victor is less isolated from past 
and present workmates, though he recalls 
that at two of his four jobs, he did not 
mix socially. Work cultures separate Doris, 
a wage worker, from Victor, a salaried 
professional, but their occupational tran- 
sience imparts a common perspective of 
detachment from the workplace and its 
circle of acquaintances, neither of which, 
after all, they can take with them to their 
next job. 

Itinerant workers in the electronics in- 
dustry are distinct from migrant farm 
workers who travel together from job to 
job, whose work follows predictable seas- 
onal rhythms, and who speak and act 
as a community more or less conscious of 
itself. The modem itinerant worker may 
be fired in groups, but does not travel, 
find work, live, or act with others as part 
of a community, despite sharing similar 
burdens. The burdens are many and not 
strictly peculiar to Silicon Valley: the 
frequent, unsettling motion in and out of 
work, the deprivations of prolonged over- 
time; the anxiety of little-known work- 
place dangers; the shocking cost of housing; 
the fatigue of withering commutes to work, 
to childcare centers, to shopping centers; 
and the stress of juggling it all. The itin- 
erant tends to perceive these burdens less 
as the common problems of a group of 
workers, and more as individual dilemmas 



to be ignored or suffered as best as one 
can before moving on. Work's larger pur- 
poses — if one can still speak without cyni- 
cism of its capacity to provide for a sense 
of connection and contribution to society, 
for satisfying and healthful lives outside 
of work, even for security upon retirement 
— these purposes recede before the im- 
mediate prospects of finding work and 
once found, before the press of work's daily 
demands. 

Job turnover rates — the percentage of 
full-time employees who resign or transfer 
each year — provide a glimpse of the furi- 
ous labor migration within the electronics 
industry. In 1980, the American Electron- 
ics Association (AEA) surveyed its (rough- 
ly) one thousand member firms and re- 
ported an industry average 26% turnover 
rate u — twice the national 13.2% turnover 
ratei2. The following year, a Dun's Review 
report put the Valley's turnover rate at 
over 30%. Engineers, it was said, were 
"averaging a mere two years at any one 
company. "i3 

The turnover estimates are based on 
nonexhaustive surveys, and should be 
taken with the precautions that all sta- 
tistics require. But the numbers suggested 
a pattern: workers were not staying long 
at the new jobs they were finding in the 
electronics industry. This dubious job 
security casts doubt on the electronics in- 
dustry's heralded role as a refuge from 
Rustbelt unemployment. 

The electronics industry turnover rates 
have slackened, according to the AEA. 
Thus, 1985 yielded the lowest-ever industry 
turnover rate — just under 18% (still above 
the national average). 14 But the apparent 
trend toward employment stability is bogxis. 
The turnover rates exclude layoffs, and 
layoffs have made frequent copy in busi- 
ness columns during the open-ended elec- 
tronics recession of the 80s. 

If job turnover rates establish the pres- 
ence of itinerant workers, layoffs augment 
their number. Just how much so is diffi- 
cult to say with certainty. Layoffs may or 
may not be permanent, and are not al- 
ways announced (for every five publicly 
disclosed layoffs, a sixth layoff probably 
occurs behind closed doors). 15 IBM for 
years has hidden layoffs by its refinement 
of intimidating techniques aimed at re- 
ducing its permanent workforce: down- 
grading employees, selectively applying 
performance standards, and demanding 
frequent or unpalatable transfers. "There's 
a lot of turnover," according to an IBM 
San Jose production worker, who added 
that workers who fall from grace with 
their superiors are "pushed" into resigning 
when high-production swings wind down. 

Excluding the large military contrac- 
tors, Silicon Valley saw a loss of at least 
5% to 7% of its electronics industry jobs 
from spring 1985 through autumn 1986, 
according to employment surveysi6. A 
comparable job loss occurred throughout 



PROCESSED WORLD 19 



13 



the industry. (It is not known how many 
of these jobs were transferred offshore). 
To these statistical casualties must be added 
the thousands of early retirements — 10,000 
at IBM alone, beginning in late 1986 — the 
periodic furloughsi?, and the forced unpaid 
"vacation" days, all of which burdened 
electronics jobs with instability. 

Taken together, turnovers and layoffs 
probably separate at least a quarter of the 
electronics industry's permanent workforce, 
or almost one out of every four workers, 
from their jobs each year. But even this 
calculation, which is above the national 
average, is wanting. It excludes the out- 
side temporary worker and the legions of 
undocumented immigrant workers with 
which the electronics firms supplement 
their payrolls. The temporary and the un- 
documented immigrant worker constitute 
the most underprivileged substrata of the 
itinerant workforce and illustrate the sep- 
arateness of transient cultures. It is worth 
considering their lot in some detail. 

PERMANENT TEMPORARY WORKERS? 

Emerging in Silicon Valley, perhaps with 
more intensity than anywhere else, is the 
deployment of temporary workers as a sub- 
stitute for permanent workers. "When 
you're dealing with volatile industries like 
semiconductors and electronics, " explained 
the head of the Valley's temporary agency 
trade group, "the role of the temporary 
has changed to a detached workforce ac- 
tually planned for by persormel depart- 
ments." A Silicon Valley worker is more 
than three times as likely to be a temporary 
worker than elsewhere; within the com- 
puter-buildir\g and related industries, this 
figure rises. "The general consensus for a 
lot of high-tech companies is to have 10 to 
15 percent of their labor force temporary," 
according to a Valley agency spokesperson. 
One computer maker. Convergent Tech- 
nologies, uses temporaries for nearly 30% 
of its work force. The temp's assignments 
include the traditional ones of filling in for 
fuU-time clerical /secretarial workers on 
vacation or sick leave. But far more often, 
"temps" are electronics assemblers and 
other production workers as well as pro- 
grammers, accountants, technical illustrat- 
ors and writersig. The assignments can 
last weeks or months, but increasingly 
are open ended in accord with the incon- 
stant demands of the computer corporation. 

Permanent workers may be dragooned 
by their employer into the ranks of im- 
permanence. In a practice known as "em- 
ployee leasing," Corvus, a computer- 
storage firm, fired its technical writers and 
then offered to "rehire" several of the now 
jobless ex-employees at lower expense as 
temporary workers j9. Other firms less 
systematically displace permanent employ- 
ees with part-time staff. (See "Working to 
Live or Living to Work?" page 12) 

Startup computer companies, liable to 
expand wildly but tentative about their 



future, are a natural employer for the 
easily-riddanced temporary worker, who 
supplements a core of dedicated "founder " 
workers. But large, mature computer cor- 
porations also rely heavily on temporary 
workers as well as "supplemental" workers 
— part-time persormel hired directly by the 
employer. Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and 
Control Data Corporation are among the 
largest users of temporary and supple- 
mental workers. H-P maintains its own 
temporary agency and also contracts with 
nearly a dozen outside agencies, spending 
millions to keep temporary workers on 
its payroll, mainly for production and 
clerical work, but also for programming, 
technical writing, and other esoterically 
skilled work. The rationale? When there is 
a slowdown, as one agent put it, "you 
don't have those layoffs that put you on 
the front page" — merely the orderly and 
predictable release of temporary workers. 
For example, in autumn, 1985, IBM-San 
Jose, according to a full-time production 
worker, quietly laid off "several hundred" 
supplementals. 

These unarmounced dismissals are no 
less tragic for going untallied in local and 
national media, and for eluding those who 
calculate official joblessness; on-again, off- 
again temp workers cannot always peti- 
tion successfully for unemployment com- 
pensation or simply do not bother. The 
statistical fictions of Reagan's Department 
of Labor have been compounded by both 
IBM and H-P's claims of "never having a 
layoff anywhere," since the hundreds of 
temporary and supplemental workers each 
employs and dismisses every year are not, 
strictly speaking employees, and thus are 
not counted by these clever firms as layoffs. 

The advantages of employing temporary 
help are not reducible merely to greater 
labor flexibility. As the executive president 
of the National Association of Temporary 
Services, speaking of the booming Silicon 
Valley temporary market, put it, the temp 
"provides a buffer zone" to a company's 
full-time workers, "shield[ing] them from 
the ups and downs" of the economy. This 
observation, really a recommendation, is 
saturated with the worst paternalism, but 
it also locates the temp worker in an eco- 
nomic class that is well beneath that of 
the permanent worker. 

llie temp's pay and benefits, with which 
the agencies are notoriously stingy, are far 
less than that of nontemporary workers 
performing similar work. The economics 
are straightforward (see "From Inside the 
Beast— Temporarily," this issue). The 
contrast in pay and benefits suggests the 
privileged culture in which the "permanent" 
worker is steeped relative to the temp. 20 

The temp's relative power and control 
over a job is also badly compromised. 
Some workers envy the temp's mobility 
and detachment. With few exceptions, 
however, the temp is viewed by manage- 
ment and workers alike as a mercenary 



whose allegiance to the company, and 
thus to the job, is actively suspect. No 
amount of reassurance and advertising by 
the larger temp agencies seem to have 
changed this prejudice. There is a conceit 
regarding the temporary worker, as if this 
status reflected one's inability to hold 
down permanent work, rather than the 
simple scarcity of such work. In conse- 
quence, the temp suffers special indignities. 
As a rule, the temp is hired to do the worst 
(i.e., most boring, repetitive, tedious, or 
physicially demanding) jobs on the slowest, 
clunkiest equipment, under the least com- 
fortable conditions. Thus situated, temps 
are expected to perform to the exaggerated 
standards advertised by their agencies and 
to exude the unctuousness of the cheerful 
subordinate. To make matters worse, the 
temp is often exempted from informal work 
rules and rituals, such as the permanent 
worker's longer lunch breaks, late morning 
arrivals, early Friday afternoon departures, 
and extended breaks. Moreover, the temp 
may be an unwelcome guest at the usual 
gossip and kaffee klatsches. This is the 
special "detachment" of the temporary 
worker, whose natural allies, fellow work- 
ers, are often unapproachable at first. 

The infringement of the temporary 
worker's rights is perhaps the greatest in- 
justice. For instance, in a practice known 
as "payroUing," employers may screen 
prospective permanent employees sent to 
them by a temp agency. As one employer 
put it, payrolling "allow[s] us to test some- 
one in place of a probationary f)eriod." 
Payrolling may or may not lead to a 
permanent job for the temp. The impwrtant 
difference is that firms can dismiss tem- 
porctry workers without even the minimal 
notice or explanation given fired proba- 
tionary workers. As it is, employers are 
discouraged from hiring on the temp by 
the substantial "release" fees charged by 
the temp's agent. 

"Payrolled" or not, when problems do 
emerge, temps cannot, according to many 
agencies' policies, deal directly with an 
on-site manager. Instead, the temporary 
worker must appeal to the good graces of 
the temporary agent to represent him or 
her in a dispute with the agency's "client." 
Without so much as an exit interview, fired 
temps may find out only that "there were 
problems" or that their performance was 
"unprofessional," generalities that are 
hard to defend against. Nor are temp 
agencies reliable defenders of their em- 
ployees, since the employees are usually 
easily replaced, and the agencies are pre- 
disposed to accept the firm's version of 
things. The firm is a potentially greater 
and certainly more stable source of income 
for the agent than the offending temporary 
worker. 

Some observers, especially those riding 
the waves and charting the trends of the 
future, put the best face on the emergence 
of temporary workers, depicting them as 



14 



PkOCESSED WORLD 19 



an innovative and happy medium for 
labor and capital^. Here it is imagined 
that temporary work fulfills the avoca- 
tional aspirations of students, retirees, the 
unemployed-in-between-jobs, and others 
who scorn permanent work. There's no 
denying that impermanent and part-time 
work is well-suited to many schedules. 
But the sanguine appraisals apply mainly, 
I suspect, to the minority of well-paid, 
highly-skilled temps. This is small conso- 
lation for the majority of disenfranchised 
temporary workers whose ill-paid and un- 
stable assignments more accurately reflect 
the unilaterally determined needs of in- 
creasingly volatile capital. 

The final tragedy is the temporary work- 
er's isolation not only from the permanent 
worker, but also from other temps, who 
are freshly dispersed with every assign- 
ment. No one is better suited to ameliorate 
the temp's abused status than temp workers 
themselves. Within this fragmented itiner- 
ant culture, there is great potential, but 
little occasion, for solidarity. Divided, 
they cope. 

In the tumult of the electronics industry's 
widely varying fortunes, as well as the 
tentative atmosphere of the economy at 



large, the temporary agency promises to 
reduce production costs and is therefore a 
growth industry. This promise is secured 
by the isolation of the temp worker from 
mainstream work cultures. 

UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS: 
HERE TOD AY... 

The least publicly acknowledged itiner- 
ant culture is that of the undocumented im- 
migrant jj. No one knows with certainty 
how many undocumented workers reside 
and work in Silicon Valley, which official- 
ly hosts 320,000 Hispanics and thousands 
more Taiwanese, Vietnamese, and Fili- 
pinos. But in the barrios of East San Jose, 
coimterfeit "green cards" — actually white, 
with red and blue printing— are available 
for $50-$250, some boasting the secret 
codes of the genuine article. 

Biased estimates abound. In 1984, the 
Immigration and Naturalization Service 
(INS) opened a special branch office in 
Silicon Valley, claiming that 25% of the 
workforce — nearly 200,000 workers — 
were there illegally, that more were on the 
way, and that it was high time something 
was done about it. This was a staggering 
calculation and a threat of wholesale in- 



quisition; both were inflated, probably 
deliberately. A year later, the Wall Street 
Journal put the numbers slightly lower, be- 
tween 10% and 20%2j. But by then, the 
INS, as it has nearly everywhere, had 
dashed its inquisitional designs. Instead, 
it had capitulated to a familiar bloc of 
Sunbelt political and corporate interests 
who traffic in what the Journal calls the 
"cheap, docile, and abundant" undocu- 
mented worker. The traffic continues, 
pushing, as it does, the terms of and prices 
in the United States labor market down 
toward the subsistence levels of the Third 
World. 

Since the early 1970s, the U.S. semi- 
conductor and electronics firms have been 
among the biggest employers of Third 
World labor in the U.S. and abroad. By 
the mid-1970s, for example, the five largest 
chip makers collectively had over 60 pro- 
duction facilities abroad — more than these 
firms maintained in the United States2^. 
Many a firm has shifted work from Sunny- 
vale to Manila as the fidgeting of cost 
accountants dictated. Former computer- 
game paterfamilias Atari relocated its 
entire production facilities from the Valley 
to El Paso, Texas, and then to Hong Kong 




PROCESSED WORLD 19 



IS 



and Taiwan; before it was through, 4,000 
Valley workers were permanently disen- 
cumbered of their Atari jobs. Through 
suqh arrangements, North and South, 
East and West are meeting, and not only 
on the payrolls of the global computer- 
building firms. Nowhere is this more ap- 
parent than in the bargain basement of 
the itinerant labor market in Silicon Val- 
ley — the life of the undocumented immi- 
grant worker. 

My most frequent contact with undocu- 
ment workers came while I was a tem- 
porary clerk making pickups and deliveries 
for an audio /video computer maker that 
subcontracted work to metal shops in 
Silicon Valley. Inside one of the shops — a 
dirt-floor quonset hut in Santa Clara — 
were Hispanic workers in rubber boots, 
gloves, and aprons — and without respira- 
tor masks. They moved about quickly, 
stoking fires beneath vats of chemicals, 
climbing up and down the jerrybuilt plat- 
forms which gave access to the vats. Some 
of the vats boiled; others, untouched by 
the fires, yielded the smoke of chemical 
reaction. The first time I delivered there, 
the workers regarded me suspiciously. 
They may have taken my tie, twill slacks, 
and sunglasses for the accouterments of 
La Migra travelling incognito. Then, after 
my pick-ups and deliveries at the metal 
shop became a commonplace, their sus- 
picion gave way to silent grinning saluta- 
tions. 

Into the vats the workers dipped the un- 
finished alloy chassis panels, nuts, and 
screws I would drop off from the digital 
camera factory. The foul metallic odors 
made me want to hold my breath. The 
bulb-shaped fans twirling slowly on the 
roof provided little ventilation. After I 
stopped making deliveries there, someone 
in a position to know confirmed my sus- 
picions: most of the metal shop employees 
were imdocumented workers. I wondered 
how much they were daunted by their 
"alien" status from speaking out against 
the odors. 

Much of Silicon Valley, as well as huge 
swaths of the American Southwest, have 
become a de facto Export Processirtg Zone 
(EPZ) — an entrepreneurial no-man's land 
where the civilized pretensions of the 
above-ground labor market are checked at 
the shop door. In EPZs in Malaysia and 
the Philippines, or in the maquiladoras 
along the Mexican-U.S. border, an elec- 
tronics firm escapes taxes, enjoys the pre- 
sumption of abridged labor organizing and 
safety precautions, and employs young. 

Temporarily Poetry 

— Beauty's Only Skin Deep 
Here she is 
there she goes 
Missed America. 

Linda Thomas 



mainly female, first-time wage workers for 
as little as 70 cents an hour. In the United 
States, by informal decree of the INS, the 
same firm, or its subcontractors, receives 
similar advantages. In the Valley, the 
middling-to-small shops of metal plating, 
printed circuit board assembly, landscaping 
and janitorial service muster the undocu- 
mented worker for $2.50 an hour or lower. 
Even the Journal noted that "10,000 il- 
legals [are] estimated to be manufacturing 
printed circuit boards in Silicon Valley, 
often at below the minimum wage." 
Without them, the Journal speculated, 
the local economy "might collapse." 

The parallels between the foreign EPZs 
and the underground neo-serfdoms being 
carved out in the Valley run long and deep. 
For speaking out against workplace dan- 
gers, company-store markups, or a fore- 
man's sexual advances in the Philippines, a 
worker risks both current job and general 
blacklisting within the EPZ. Not only can 
dissident undocumented workers in Silicon 
Valley be summarily fired; they must also 
be wary of the dogs, handcuffs, and 
searches of immigration police agents. At 
intervals dictated by the complex politics 
of immigrant labor, these agents may 
suddenly round up hundreds of hapless 
workers, preventively detain them, and 
send many of them to the unfriendly 
or indifferent governments of their home- 
lands. The raid, like the blacklist, severs 
the workplace connections to the immi- 
grant's potentially most helpful companions 
— resident fellow workers. Even the rumor 
of a raid can result in preemptive with- 
drawal from one's job so as to avoid arrest. 

The temp's workplace rights and con- 
ditions are shabby, confined by once- 
removed ties to the labor market; the 
underground immigrant electronics work- 
er's rights are nonexistent and workplace 
conditions generally much worse. This is 
despite the frequent deduction of worker's 
compensation, job disability and unem- 
ployment contributions from the immi- 
grant's pay — for benefits he and she will 
never see. As one employer put it, "When- 
ever there's an accident . . . , the Chicano 
[Mexican-American] will stay home and 
ask for worker's compensation. The Mexi- 
cans, they work." 

Undocumented immigrant workers are 
so important to the Valley's electronics- 
based economy as to be tolerated (but 
only in their current wretched status) by 
a revealing alliance of interests. During 
its first week of business in 1984, the San 
Jose INS raided several electronics work- 
places. San Jose City officials, sensitive 
to the importance of "illegals " to the local 
economy, adopted a resolution against "the 
unwarranted disruption of the business 
community" as well as the affront to resi- 
dent Chicano workers being shaken down 
by undiscriminating INS agents. The City 
Attorney explored means to prevent the 
raids. The Police Chief instructed his min- 



ions not to coop>erate with raiding INS 
agents. Within months, a Federal Judge 
issued a local injunction against the open- 
ended INS raids, ordering its agents to 
notify employers or to describe to them 
each suspect before a raid. Chastised, the 
INS has since relented, but not before 
installing a resident alien database agaii\st 
which employers can check the validity 
of workers' "green cards." Under this pax 
laissez faire, employers decide when and 
against which employees to apply INS 
heat; when INS agents come calling, the 
employer can schedule raids to coincide 
with a week's "vacation" for their docile 
undocumented workers — or hand over the 
names of troublemakers. 

It is too early to discern the impact of 
the new immigration rules, which are being 
gradually introduced. The laws apf)ear to 
offer hope to those immigrants both willing 
and able to provide proof of their resi- 
dency. Most, I suspect, will remain skep- 
tical. National Semiconductor workers 
tell the story of their employer's promise 
of diplomatic and legal assistance to its 
immigrant employees. When some of the 
latter then revealed their improper docu- 
ments. National Semi ordered them to 
provide proof of legal status within 72 
hours. In the doldrums of a sales slump. 
National Semi fired those who couldn't 
produce appropriate visas and then escaped 
liability for unemployment compensation 
claims25. 

In the shadow of unofficial sanction, 
little light is shed on undocumented immi- 
grant workers' jobs. No one, save the odd 
underfunded legal defense fund or parish 
food kitchen, ventures to tally their lay- 
offs, injuries, illnesses, or wages. Stuck in 
subcontracting electronics shops or even 
smaller cottage-type operations, undocu- 
mented immigrant workers are physically, 
as well as culturally, removed from the legal 
workforce. Without legal status, without a 
voice, and without the active sympathy 
and support of resident workers, they 
remain vulnerable in the worst ways. Sili- 
con Valley indeed might "collapse" with- 
out them, but their plight remains hidden, 
and they are ill-placed to help themselves. 

THE DIMINISHING CONNECTIONS 

The urge to quantify the itinerant worker 
phenomenon is difficult to resist. But 
lumping the temporary and undocumented 
workers together with the previously esti- 
mated 25% of workers separated from 
their jobs each year by turnover and lay- 
offs is ill-advised, even as an approxima- 
tion. Firms that employ undocumented 
workers do not always employ temps, the 
former being an even cheaper substitute 
for the latter. Companies that "lease" 
temps for 30% of their workforce are 
likely to issue fewer permanent-employee 
layoffs. Moreover, the motivations that 
impel workers along an occupational 
itinerary are as varied as the itineraries 



16 



PROCESSED WORLD 19 




Yuppus Sociomobilus 



themselves. Many workers attach a co- 
herence to their workplace transience, 
regarding job changes as the logical steps 
of an unfolding career. Salaried profession- 
al employees with skills in high demand 
can do so plausibly; the less-skilled pro- 
duction worker cannot. 

What can be said is that transient cul- 
tures saturate the electronics industry, cre- 
ating an atmosphere of impermanence 
among its workforce. That electronics is 
now our largest manufacturing employer 
may be prophetic. Thanks in large part to 
the electronics industry, job descriptions 
in the 80s read like recipes for workplace 
transience. 

Electronics products play a crucial role 
in the growth of service-based industries 
that offer low-wage, part-time jobs as well 
as automation technologies that reduce 
the manufacturing workforce. According 
to a recent Joint Economic Committee of 
Congress study by Barry Bluestone and 
Bennett Harrison26, more than half of all 
new jobs are paying less than $7000 per 
year, a "disproportionate" number are 
part time, and, we can safely infer, most 
are unchallenging to jobholders and vul- 
nerable to automation. These are the con- 
ditions that favor workplace transience, 
as the rising national job turnover rates 
and layoffs tend to confirm. 

Some workers, even in Silicon Valley, 
manage to stay on at firms year after year. 
But permanent workers cannot escape the 
consequences of a transient workforce 
around them. If their fellow workers are 
forever shifting, the complexion of their 
departments, shops, or labs can change 



significantly within one to three years. The 
contagion of transience may not ir\fect 
every worker, but, as with the quaran- 
tined survivors in Camus' The Plague, life 
is not the same for those who remain. 

The itinerant worker is as restless as the 
microelectronics industry is volatile. But 
the restlessness is disturbing, the mobility 
—even by American standards — is dizzy- 
ing. Like the American tourist attempting 
to "see" Europe in two weeks, the itinerant 
retains little more than passing interest in 
the changing scenery of workplace and 
fellow workers. 

Itinerant workers are, by tenure, less 
informed about a specific shop or office, 
its management, its labor relations, its 
problems, its history. By that measure, 
itinerants are less effective in speaking out 
with the authority of experience on work- 
place problems. It is perhaps too early to 
pronounce with certainty, but the itinerant 
perspective of a large and growing pro- 
portion of workers probably reduces pres- 
sure on the firm to correct problems, to 
invest in and implement safety procedures, 
to chastise or remove offensive managers. 
This might help explain why itinerant 
workers have proven elusive targets for 
electronics industry union organizing, such 
as it has been (see PW 16 "Unions? In 
Silicon Valley?") 

Transience clearly affects the forms em- 
ployee resistance assumes. When manage- 
ment policies inspire employee resistance, 
its collective character is often preempted 
or aborted in favor of individual meas- 
ures. For example, at a computer graphics 
company in the Valley, several technical 
writers, including myself, quit as a result 
of an overbearing manager. The departures 
were staggered, and came after the founder- 
ing of a quasi-organized rebellion against 
the manager's crude wielding of authority. 
The failure reflected our inexperience in 
collective resistance, but also the less 
troublesome option of finding another 
job while biding our time as best we could. 
This escape route was conditioned by the 
availability of jobs but also by a shared 
itinerant perspective: none of us had 
planned on staying with this company. No 
one plans on staying with an electronics 
company indefinitely, even when one 
would like to do so. 

Whether our jobs are taken from us or 
whether we leave them voluntarily, we may 
or may not improve our lots by finding 
work elsewhere. But by looking elsewhere, 
we are less and less likely to address work 
problems collectively, an option that is 
fading from the realm of the familiar and 
feasible. It's not that collective undertak- 
ings are spumed, but more that they're 
difficult to imagine while in the flow of 
an itinerant culture. Trar^ience is diffi- 
cult to share. 

— by Dennis Hayes ¥ff% 

Notes: ^*^ 

1. According to an American Electronics Association 



report, approximately 2.5 million people work in the 
electronics industry, making it the largest manufactur- 
ii\g sector in the U.S. Wall Street Journal. 9/3/86. 

2. Only 15% of the U.S. microchip market "is geared 
to consumer products (compared to 55% of Japanese 
semiconductor sales)." Gordon & Kimball, p. 19, 1985. 
A comparable proportion exists for most other made- 
in-U.S.A. electronics, whose largest single market ($56 
billion, or about 25% of total electronics sales) is mili- 
tary, with the business markets cited next. WS] 9/3/86. 

3. "The service sector (including trade, finance, insu- 
rance, real estate, services and government) accounted 
for 56.7% of total U.S. employment in 1940. By 1960, 
the figure had jumped to 62.3% and then to 71.5% in 
1980. In contrast, goods-producing employment (in- 
cluding minii\g, manufacturing, and construction) shrank 
from 43.3% in 1940, to 37.7% in 1960, and then to 
28.5% in 1980." McCrate, Elaine. "Is it Trickling 
Down?" Economic Resources for the People. 1986. 

4. Dataquest, Silicon Valley Research Group Con- 
ference. University of California— Santa Cruz. Octo- 
ber 1986. 

5. 'The production labor force, which comprised 60% 
of all electronics jobs in 1965, had declined to under 
one-half of all electronics employment by 1984." — 
Gordon, R. & L.M. Kimball, "High Technology, 
Employment & The Challenges to Education." Con- 
ference on Job Creation, Innovation, & New Tech- 
nologies, Brussels, p. 25 9/2-5/85. 

6. Gordon & Kimball, ibid. p. 25. 1985. 

7. Gordon & Kimball, ibid. p. 15-16. 1985. 

8. Rose, F. "In the Grip" Esquire February, 1985. 

9. Bruno, A., J. Leidecker, & J. Harder "Why Firms 
Fail: Patterns of Discontinuance Among Silicon Valley 
High-Technology Firms" University of Santa Clara, 
October, 1985. 

10. Teledyne Microwave, Eaton Corporation, Applied 
Technology, Ampex, Memorex, and Varian Associates. 

11. AEA Press Release. 

12. Bureau of National Affairs, Washington, D.C. 

13. Murray, Thomas J. "Silicon Valley Faces Up to 
the 'People' Crunch." Dun's Review July 1981. 

14. The nationzJ turnover rate, as compiled by the 
BNA, has been rising— to 16.8% in 1985. This suggests 
a trend toward greater workplace trarwience in industry 
at large. 

15. The impact of layoffs is obscured further by the 
simultaneous creation of new electronics jobs. For 
example, a Silicon Valley newspaper survey found that 
between January, 1983 and March, 1985, 48 high-tech 
firms laid off 10,000 workers while employment— in- 
cluding military electronics work— grew by 36,000. 

16. Aimual Plarming Information, San Jose Metro- 
politan Statistical Area 1986-87, Califorrua Employment 
Development Dept. 

17. Wilson, Rand et. al. "Do Unions Have a Future in 
High Technology?" Technology Review, October 1986. 

18. According to Manpower's Silicon Valley branches — 
one of the largest — 45% of its temps are office workers, 
23% are production workers, and 29% are "specialized" 
technical workers such as engineers and technicians. 
Interview. 1986. 

19. This anecdote was recounted at a National Writers 
Union, Local 3, meetir\g in Silicon Valley, 1986. A 
Corvus spokesperson would neither deny nor confirm 
the story. 

20. By 1986, the largest temp agency in the world. 
Manpower, offered life/health benefits, paid holidays, 
and vacation pay. But, according to a Silicon Valley 
Manpower spokesperson, "the vast majority of tem- 
poraries never use benefits because they don't stay 
with us long enough." For example, to qualify for 
one week's vacation pay, a Manpower temp must 
"have worked 1500 hours during the preceding 12- 
month period," i.e., nearly full time. 

21. Toffler, A. The Third Wave. Morrow, 1980. 

22. At a cor\ference held by the Silicon Valley Re- 
search Group/UC Santa Cruz, 10/24-25/86, panels 
presented smatterirvgs of empirical workforce sociology, 
but not a smidgen of research on the traffic in un- 
derground immigrant labor. 

23. Other estimates, such as a recent one by San Fran- 
cisco Chronicle reporters, put the total Bay Area un- 
documented figure "between 150,000 and 300,000" 
DelVecchio, R. and D. Garcia "Immigration Law is 
Changing U.S." 1/26/87. 

24. Keller, J.F. The Division of Labor In Electronics. 
(1981) Women and the International Division of Labor. 
Nash, J. & M.P. Fernandez-Kelly eds. State University 
of New York Press, 1983. 

25. Wilson, R. ibid. 1986. 

26. Bluestone, B. and B. Harrison. Joint Economic 
Committee of Congress, December 9, 1986. 



PROcesseo world i9 



I 




work as a part-time in- 
structor at a San Francisco 
Bay Area community col- 
lege. The California public 
university system, which 
includes universities, state univer- 
sities and community colleges, was 
designed in the 1960s (when there 
was lots of money kicking around) 
to enable any young Califomian 
who wanted one to get a college 
degree, regardless of economic 
level. I myself was a product of 
the education boom. Thanks to the 
largesse of financial aid, I armed 
myself (along with the rest of the 
hordes) with my liberal arts degree, 
ready to tackle the world. I'm still 
tethered to the public university 
system, but now I'm looking at it 
from the inside as an employee, 
and, along with my fellow part- 
time instructors, watching it disin- 
tegrate. 

Nowhere do you see the insidious un- 
doing of the promise of equal opportunity 
as in the current California community 
college system. With the passage of the tax- 
cutting Proposition 13 and the election of 
a short-sighted, "bottom-line" governor, 
the California corrununity colleges had be- 
gun their slow decline. Government funds 
have been reduced to a trickle over the 
last few years. Administrators moan and 
groan over the restrictions imposed on 
them. Classes have been cut. Tuition is 
raised yearly. Attendance is down. Low- 
income teenagers have proven to be a 
completely expendable commodity in the 
highly competitive, high-tech job market 
of the 1980s, and the California system 
of education has remorselessly abandoned 
them. 

The university system is also abandon- 
ing the very graduates it spawned— the 
new crop of mainly extraneous teachers 
in the arts, humanities and social sciences. 
In the community colleges, the teaching 
profession is slowly but surely going the 
route of two-tiered polarization, just like 



the thousands of traditional, skilled jobs 
that are currently being degraded. On the 
top, you have the twenty-year veterans 
protected by the American Federation of 
Teachers and an antiquated tenure system 
in which incompetence, egotism and ba- 
nality unfortunately run rampant. On the 
bottom, you have people like me— people 
who want to teach and therefore accept 
low-rung jobs working as temporaries in 
the colleges. 

Budget-minded administrators knew it 
would be impossible to disturb the sanc- 
tity of the "ivory tower," so they found 
a way to screw the new teachers— by simply 
not letting them in. In California, whenever 
a college-level teacher retires, he or she 
is increasingly replaced by a disposable, 
cheap, part-time teacher. More than half 
of the faculty at the college where I work 
is part-time and temporary. The ratio is 
even higher at other schools. The "teach- 
ing temp" is paid an hourly wage for class- 
room time only. There is no vacation pay, 
holiday pay, or health or retirement bene- 
fits. Months like December and April are 
total hell. While the old-timers bask in the 
luxury of periodic paid weeks off, part- 
timers get stuck with paychecks about half 
their normally miserable size. Nor is there 
compensation for classroom preparation 
time or "office hours," the customary time 
in which the teacher and student can talk 
one-on-one. At the end of the semester 
they 'let you go" — unless, that is, they 
keep you on for the next semester... and 
keep you on for the next summer... and 
the next... and the next. 

The result is that at the college level 
these days, half the faculty are walking 
zombies who are disillusioned, insecure... 
and tired. Part-timers spend their off -hours 
scrambling for other part-time jobs that 
can support their teaching habit. I work 
as a part-time word processor; an ac- 
quaintance of mine tutors high school 
kids. Many part-timers have families that 
rely on their income. It's not unusual for 
them to dash off after class, in a mad 
race to make a decent living. Most likely 
they jump in the car, get on the freeway, 
and drive 45 minutes or an hour to their 
next class at another school, or else they 
run home to grade piles of exams and 
papers, a grueling activity for which they 
don't get paid. 

As a consequence, part-timers hardly 
ever see one another. I only know two 
other part-timers at my school, and I see 
them very infrequently. The implications 



10 



are obvious: we are too alienated, iso- 
lated and enervated to develop the cama- 
raderie required for serious job organization. 
The AIT reps encourage us to attend their 
meetings, but we know they don't really 
represent us. We know we're going to 
have to organize ourselves if we want 
change, yet we're overcome with a para- 
lyzing malaise, underneath which rage 
battles bum-out. But from day to day we 
mainly accept things, silently praying that 
enough of the old-timers will die so that we 
can get their jobs. 

It's not just the part-timers who are 
suffering here: it's the whole system of edu- 
cation that's going down the tubes. Part- 
timers, generally speaking, do not parti- 
cipate in departmental affairs. Curriculum 
and policy are decided by the twenty- 
year veterans (the full-timers) who have 
generally given in to their apathy. A more 
cynical and beaten bunch you'd be hard- 
pressed to find. For the most part they're 
appalled at the degradation of education, 
yet they're overcome by inertia. They shrug 
apologetically when they see you in the 
halls, stopping to chat about "how the 
teaching's going," yet their primary goal 
is to reduce the amount of work they have 
to do themselves. Decision-making by the 
discouraged is a dreary business. Policy is 
either nondescript or totally inconsistent. 
Passing the buck has become elevated to 
an art. 

In addition many full-timers strike me as 
having completely lost touch with student 
needs. Wracked by insecurity at being low- 
level professoriate, and despairing at the 
shrinking level of esteem society affords 
them, faculty members unconsciously vent 
frustration on their students. I've been ap- 
palled at the disparaging words exchanged 
among teachers in reference to the de- 
clining abilities of the students. That the 
students try their best, given inadequate 
intellectual preparation in high school and 
at home, isn't much considered. Nor does 
it strike the full-timers that perhaps build- 
ing intellectual skills in the classroom 
first requires recognizing the validity of 
ignorance and understanding some of its 
origins. 

It's funny, the community college teach- 
ers seem to think that the professors at the 
university level have it made because stu- 
dents there are "so much more intellec- 
tually motivated." But having just arrived 
at the community college from the uni- 
versity, I know better. Faculty alienation 
from students— and vice versa- is omni- 

PROCeSSED WORLD 19 



present in the university system. Students 
arrive at college less trained for critical 
analysis than for stifling obedience from 
which they understandably long to escape. 
Oversized classrooms and psychologically 
insensitive teaching methods have made 
instruction in the public schools a matter 
of power and submission. Professors at 
the college level interpret the younger 
student's indifference as "lack of academic 
ability and interest" rather than a healthy 
response to bullshit drudgery. Professional 
egos get bruised ("why should I have to 
teach incompetents?"), and students are 
punished for it. 

The academy gets its steam from intel- 
lectual self -hatred. Professors rush to the 
library in their off -hours for research, to 
convince scrutinizing administrators and 
fellow academicians they are worthy of 
tenure. The competition is fierce, the work 
ethic unbounded. Professors then carry 
this weak-kneed egotism into the class- 
room, where they try to impress their 
poor students with what scholarly hot 
shit they are. Students are then blamed for 
not being smart enough to understand 
abstruse, self-obsessive, disorganized aca- 
demic mumbo-jumbo. If they give up try- 
ing, as so many students have, then they're 
totally ignored by the education system. 
Many students have become "bottom-line" 
thinkers— the value of the intellectual effort 
is measured by its cost-effectiveness 
("what'll this effort get me?"). 

The whole milieu for mind expansion 
and personal growth has become warped 
beyond belief. Used to be, a professor 
would hang out in office hours and stu- 
dents would drift in to discuss intellectual 



issues, learning problems or personal dilem- 
mas. A good teacher could really make a 
difference in somebody's life. Students 
often looked to a teacher for encourage- 
ment and advice and attention, stuff the 
student probably wasn't getting a lot of at 
home. But today, neither full-time nor 
part-time teachers have the psychic energy 
required to reach out and inspire. And 
students often seem more interested in their 
economic futures than in ideas or abstrac- 
tions. 

Nevertheless, many of my students strike 
me as starved for positive feedback, kind 
words, and strong role models. They're also 
hungry for something interesting that they 
can relate to. I myself am torn between 
my desire to provide them sympathetic 
guidance and adult friendship, which is so 
lacking for young people these days, and 
my unwillingness to donate too many 
hours of my already busy week. I usually 
volunteer three or four hours to office 
time, and I'm glad I do it, but it's not 
really enough. The sad truth is, with the 
majority of teachers on the run, the stu- 
dent who is slower or less confident will 
probably get overlooked. Students with 
learning disabilities or family problems 
often drop out. 

Something pretty tragic's going on here: 
with a few minor exceptions, the personal 
relationship between student and teacher 
is becoming a thing of the past. Enroll- 
ments are declining as a result, creating 
more cutbacks, more substandard teaching, 
and less intellectually capable students. 
It's a bureaucratic vicious circle that's 
completely out of control, and virtually 
paralyzing education. And it's the kind of 



organizational dysfunction you see every- 
where these days. 

The decline of education in America 
offends me to the core for a couple of 
different reasons. First of all, it represents 
the arrival of a new socio-economic line- 
up here in the richest country in the world. 
Today, even the myth of America as a 
"nation of middle-class people" is dying a 
rapid death. Social classes are polarized 
and the growing numbers of poor, without 
access to better opportunities, are merci- 
lessly shut out of the system. Life in the 
eighties has become a survival-of-the-fittest 
aerobic scramble to the top, in order to 
join the closing ranks of the '"boomoisie." 
The majority is undeniably being left be- 
hind. 

But the decline of education has other 
ramifications that I find equally frightening. 
Critical thinking and the thirst for know- 
ledge are becoming rare. Mass media has 
chipped away at intelligent reasoning by 
offering fluff packages as "information." 
People are increasingly rendered passive by 
their ignorance. The old myths have made 
a comeback. Americans today are accept- 
ing responsibility for their own ""failure," 
instead of lashing out at the appropriate 
instigators who value money over lives. 
We're at a dangerous crossroads. It'd be 
easy at this point to give in to fear or 
despair. I sense that tendency in me on the 
one hand — but I'm also too fucking angry 
to give up. 



— Sophia Furia 



From inside The Beast, Temporarily 



M 



y quest for 



"meaningful work" 
has led me down 
some weird paths. 
IVe been a book- 
keeper for a cult, a bartender in a biker bar, a 
teacher in an alternative school, a counselor in a 
crisis center, and a political worker for every 
hopeless cause since McGovern. My penchant 
for bizarre occupations has continued. I now 
find myself working as a placement counselor 
for a temporary service. 



PROcesseo world 19 




cont'd, next page 



19 




"X^rlfli 




According to recent statistics from the 
Dept. of Labor, employment services is 
one of the five fastest-growing businesses 
in the country. As a result of continuing 
mergers, economic cutbacks, and rising 
costs in employing full-time workers, many 
corporations are turning to temporary ser- 
vices to fill their employment needs. This, 
in turn, is creating a growing class of 
workers who receive low wages, few bene- 
fits, and absolutely no job security. In 
San Francisco, because of corporate mer- 
gers and companies moving their back- 
office operations out to the suburbs, even 
temporary work is becoming scarce for 
those with only clerical skills. 

Clients pay a flat hourly rate to the 
temporary service. The average mark-up 
(the difference between what the temp is 
paid and what the client is billed) of 40% 
for large accounts and 60% for smaller 
accounts. Occasionally services are able to 
bill over 70%. Temps are never told what 
the client is being billed, and clients aren't 
told what the temp is being paid unless 
it's specified in a contract. 

Temps receive few benefits. Some of the 
larger services offer vacation pay, sick 
pay, health insurance, and bonuses, but 
one way or another, they come out of the 
temp's paycheck, not the profit margin. 
Temps are covered for worker's compen- 
sation, state disability, and unemploy- 
ment. Technically, the temp is eligible for 
unemployment benefits when a temporary 
job ends. But it is to the service's advan- 
tage to contest benefit awards, which 
then lowers its contributions to the un- 
employment fund. Temps can be denied 
unemployment benefits by turning down 
a subsequent assignment, failing to contact 
the service at specified intervals, or simply 
not answering phone calls. 

Temps' job experience, qualifications, 
and motivation are perennial topics for 
management ridicule. Managers, however 
are collectively to blame for most of it. 
Job orders originate with the client's de- 
partment supervisor, who is usually un- 
familiar with the jobs he or she super- 
vises. The supervisor conveys a sketchy 
job description to a coordinator in per- 
sonnel, who then gives the information 
to the placement counselor at the temp 
service. By this time the description has 
been corrupted in the bureaucratic equiva- 
lent of the childhood game "Pass It On. " 
Recently I was asked to release a temp 
whom the client felt couldn't read. The 



temp, however, had a degree in literature. 
It turned out that she couldn't read Taga- 
log, which was the only language the 
client was able to write in. 

Placement counselors have about twenty 
minutes to fill an order. Frantic phone 
calls go out. The job is given to the first 
person who answers the phone and can be 
talked into working. This frequently means 
threatening or guilt tripping the temp by 
saying things like "It may be a long time 
before we get another job that we would 
be able to send you on, " or "I knew you 
really need the work so I held this job for 
you. If you decide not to take it, I won't 
be able to fill it and we will probably 
lose the client." 

The counselor finally locates a temp 
and then the sales pitch begins. Coun- 
selors speak in a code that is matched only 
by "For Rent" ads in the Sunday paper. 
"Plush office" means a drafty warehouse 
"convenient financial district location " 
means somewhere near 3rd and Evans, 
"great pay rate " means 10<t an hour over 
minimum wage, "wonderful boss " means a 
man who has all the wit and charm of a 
sex -starved cobra, "wear your jeans to 
work" means change into a suit before 
you get there and "a lot of learning po- 
tential" means learn how many envelopes 
you can stuff in an hour. 

After a few days on the assignment, 
many temps decide they don't like the job 
and request a new assignment. The coun- 
selor sympathetically assures them that 
they will be remembered if anything comes 
up, "but things are slow right now." Rarely 
will a counselor re-assign the temp. Clients 
usually become irate if they have to train 
another temp, and the counselor sees it as 
just another hassle. A few days later the 
temp quits in exasperation and the whole 
cycle begins all over again. 

Most of my clients treat temps as if they 
were interchangeable parts rather than 
people with real feelings. My most obno- 
xious client was a middle-aged jerk who 
kept requesting a "well-built, friendly, 
blonde girl." First, I told him that I 
couldn't take the order, as it was illegal. 
Then I explained that we weren't that 
type of service and gave him the number 
of a massage parlor. Next time he called, 
I accused him of being a sexist sack of 
shit. Finally, I sent him a "well-built, 
friendly, blonde" transvestite. I never 
heard from him again. 

We all have our prejudices. I'll place 
just about anyone with the exception of 
the potentially violent, the terminally 
stupid, and est graduates. Occasionally 
people come in to register for jobs that 
temp services don't handle. I've had people 



ask for work as a professional athlete, a 
bank president, an inventor, a guru, a dog- 
walker, and an astrologer. Several years 
ago, I had an ex-marine register as a Xerox 
operator. During the interview he showed 
me his training certificate for the 9400. 
He also showed me his certificates for 
hand-to-hand combat, bayonet practice, 
and grenade throwing. I had visions of 
him clearing a paper jam with a pugil 
stick, but we never heard from him again. 

The worst part of my job is having to 
"release" someone; again the trade jargon 
suggests a mechanical part, such as a 
clutch or a brake. Usually temps are re- 
leased because there is no more work. 
They are rarely told why, especially if 
the cause justifies legal reprisals. Just be- 
fore the holidays, one of my temps was 
released after six months by the client. 
He had received great reviews from his 
supervisor and had even been training 
other temps. When I asked why he was 
being let go, the person speaking for the 
supervisor became extremely vague and said 
that she had been advised not to answer 
that question. It turned out that she was 
filling in for the temp"s regular super- 
visor, who was on vacation; apparently 
she wanted him out of the office because 
he was openly gay. This was her or\ly 
chance and she had documented enough 
petty infractions to conceal her real motive. 

Job security also eludes placement coun- 
selors. I've been fired twice so far in this 
business. The first time, I had been work- 
ing for a large service for over a year 
when our branch manager was fired. He 
was a warm, caring man who tried al- 
ways to put people before profits and en- 
couraged us to do the same. His replace- 
ment was a woman with a cheerleader 
personality and reptilian ethics. We loathed 
each other on sight. A few weeks after 
she started, she told me to release three of 
my temps who were on a long-term pro- 
ject so that those jobs could be given to 
her friends' kids. I told her to go fuck 
herself. She fired me for having a bad 
attitude, not being corporate-minded, and 
having an authority problem. Last year I 
heard that the company found a pretense 
to fire her, because a woman presumably 
couldn't handle the job. No one is exempt 
from lies and manipulation in this business. 

The second time I was fired, I had been 
working as the manager of a new tempo- 
rary service and was expected to sell the 
service in addition to placing temps. I had 
told the owner repeatedly during my inter- 
view that I was incapable of effectively 
selling anything to anyone. Then I was 
fired for not being able to sell. Im on the 
verge of being fired again because of my 
attitude. So now I am trying to find a job 
with a zoo, cleaning elephant cages. At 
least then 111 know what I'm expected to 
shovel. 

by ]oni Hockert 



20 



PROCESSED WORLD 19 



Sand and Steel 



JLhe 



he brick edifice anchored 

the block to Santa Cruz's 

business district by one cor- 
ner. John Parks's "office" was a 
cubicle on the second floor and one 
of the most desirable in his section. 
It boasted two windows, and his 
desk was situated to take advan- 
tage of them. Most of the week 
they provided him with natural light 
by which he made his entries, one 
number to a square. The panes, 
with their clear centers and their 
comers radiused by dust, reminded 
him of zeroes on a worksheet. 

But on Thursdays the train came. 

He always heard it before he saw it: 
rhythmic clack<lacks, like his adding 
machine. Two dirty, black engines pulled 
the load — mostly low-sided cars piled high 
with coarse sand, and stout tank cars— 
with gruff rumbling into and then out of 
his sight around a gentle curve. The train 
redeemed Thursdays. He spent Thursdays 
humming 'The Wabash Cannonball" and 
filling the grids of his work sheets and 
journals with anonymous numbers. 

It was the last Thursday in May that 
Parks saw them for the first time, two 
young men in jeans and tee shirts sprawled 
on the sunny side of the sand pile in one 
of the cars. He bolted from his chair, up- 
setting cold morning coffee, and leaned 
over the desk toward the glass. Where are 
you going? Do you care? he wanted to 
shout. / wouldn't care. Not me. You don't 
know how lucky you are boys, to be out of 
work and on your way! I wouldn't care, 
just five hundred miles a day— that's all. 
The transparent reflection of his face 
stared back at him from the glass, gain- 
ing substance when superimposed on the 
dark passing cars, flickering to a watery 
ghost in the bursts of sunlight between 
them. In his mind's eye, he breathed crisp 
spring air, relaxing to the pulse of a thou- 
sand tons of rolling steel beneath him. 
The deserts bloomed this time of the year, 
pastel sands seemed to flow under gaudy 
waves of lavender and yellow blossoms. 
Magenta cactus flowers flashed by, like 
brakeman's lanterns; the air grew chill and 
the engines labored to attack a grade. 
Parks dug his elbows in, wiggled his butt 



into the warm daydream sand and broke 
into the chorus of "Bound for Glory" 
when Mr. Menzel walked in and derailed 
his brain. 

"JU-DAS PRIESTl PARKS! Mind your 
business, man." With thumb and forefinger 
he turned the sodden cover of the ledger. 
"Kramer International," he said, "Judas 
priest. " He fingered his checkered tie. 

"Anyone can han an — can have an anci- 
den — accident, Mr. Menzel," John blub- 
bered, attempting to blot up the mess with 
sheets from a scratch pad. 

"Bound, " said Menzel, lifting the ledger 
free and holding it like a trough, draining 
the liquid that hadn't soaked into the 
swelling pages back into the cup, "for 
Glory." He glared out the windows and 
felt the last THUMP-thump, THUMP- 
thump of the departed iron horse. His fat 
little face warmed to a smile; his mous- 
tache twitched. "I understand. Parks. Dis- 
tractions. Can't hear yourself think when 
that damn thing goes by. Don't you worry 
about it. Parks," he said, "well move you 
to Clinton's office. He's half-deaf, anyway, 
m call maintenance straight away and youll 
be moved in tomorrow. You should have 
said something. Parks." 

Banished, moaned John's inner voice. He 
pictured the majority of cubicles in the 
room: uniform boxes facing avocado, inner 
walls, the outlines of the cinder blocks 
shamefully undisguised, save for maybe 
a calendar with an image of the outside 
world on the top half and the days of the 
month dividing up the grid on the bottom. 
The following morning he stumbled into 
his office in his usual one-cup stupor and 
found Clinton seated at his desk. "Hey, 
Bill, waiting for me? " he asked. "What's 
up?" 

But Clinton stared out the window and 
didn't hear. Oh yeah, John remembered, 
and shuffled off to Clinton's old "office" 
in the north comer of the room. 

Two walls flanked his desk, their tiers 
of blocks stacked to support the acoustic 
tile ceiling. The light, from the fluore- 
scent fixtures overhead, pulsed at an al- 
most imperceptible rate. He blinked at the 
two blocks directly across his desk at eye 
level, tried to see through them; Monday, 
he brought a poster of the Orient Express 
and taped it there. Tuesday, the tape peeled 
off, a train wreck on his blotter. 

With four stick pins he got her back on 
track on the cubicle divider that protected 
him from Mavis Carson, on the left; but 
the train never disappeared. It seemed a 



cruel thing to do, to trap a train like 
that. Wednesday, Menzel strode coolly into 
his cubicle and squinted at the ceiling. 

"Is the light OK for you. Parks?" he 
asked, sliding a ledger onto the comer of 
the desk. "We're having a little trouble 
with your figures. Oh, no — no, not your 
procedure, that's fine. It's the figures them- 
selves. Your ones' — look here," and he 
held down a column on the buff page with 
a stubby finger. "They look more like 
apostrophes. Now, that wouldn't be such 
a problem except sometimes they look like 
shepherd's crooks, which is what your 
"sevens' are beginning to look like closed 
up nines' I" he shouted. "I can only be glad 
that there're no numbers which come 
close to resembling lower case q's except 
your 'FOURS.' I'm afraid you'll have to 
take this home and clear it up for us. 
Parks." 

He grimaced, fingered his tie and stalked 
out, nearly trampling Mavis as she mshed 
to join the quitting time stampede. He 
snarled an apology. Mavis curled a horsey 
upper lip toward John in sneering accu- 
sation, clicking off in her tight skirt like 
she had a tennis ball between her thighs. 

John woke up early Thursday morning 
and decided to walk. The fat white lines 
of a crosswalk wavered where countless 
cars had braked and accelerated on blister- 
ing summer days, distorting them like can- 
dle wax. He stepped off the curb and 
crossed outside the lines. Railroad tracks 
paralleled his route until, in deference to 
the weight they must carry, they made the 
bend around Frenchy's marsh. His street, 
a bearer of less substantial cargo, carried 
on across the bog on the narrow back of 
a blackberry-choked levee. The red lights 
on the long, black-and-white striped arms 
of the R.R. crossing guards flashed, and 
bells clanged as they descended, blocking 
the road across the marsh. 

He felt the rumble of the approaching 
train through his hard leather shoes and 
picked out the car he'd take, well before 
it got to him. He started to run. His 
side ached and his breath burned and the 
CLACK-CLACK hurt his ears. His legs 
pumped CLACK-CLACK. His arms 
pumped CLACK-CLACK. His breath 
whooshed CLACK-CLACK. Whoosh 
CLACK-CLACK, whoosh CLACK-CMCK 
whoosh CLACK-CLACK." 

His right arm shot out, his hand closed 
on the iron rung. But it was too fasti He 
squeaked; it lifted him off his feet, dragging 
him, his black leather shoes thumping the 



PROCESSED WORLD 19 



21 



ties, flashing steel wheels gleaming at his 
shins like pizza cutters. He panted shallow 
puffs of terror; his left shoe sailed down 
the roadbed into a blackberry thicket; he 
pulled his knees up but the motion sucked 
him toward the wheels and he had to let 
them down again. The right shoe bounced 
onto the track; the wheels sliced it in half. 
The heel hit a tie and flew into the air, 
ttimbling and bounding down the embank- 
ment. He closed his eyes and screamed; it 
felt as though his feet were being beaten 
with sledge hammers. "Let gol LET GOl" 
his brain screamed. But he heard those 
wheels. 

"Up ya come, buddy." Strong hands 
gripped his wrists, dragged him into the 
car. He lay on his back, gasping and sob- 
bing with his eyes closed tight. His feet 
throbbed with the rhythm of the rails and 
he heard ippssssshhhh, like the brakes of 
engines in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. 
"Here, drink this." John felt himself being 
lifted into a sitting position; he opened 
his eyes. The morning Pacific flashed bright 
and clean and flickered in stop frames 



through telephone poles. A chunky fellow 
in a polka-dot welder's cap and strap shirt 
sat beside him, passing him an open can 
of Old Milwaukee. The cold smoothness 
of the can soothed his aching hand. 

The bubbles burned his throat. "I thought 
it was all over," he said when half the 
can was empty. His eyes adjusted to the 
light and he stopped squinting. He was 
seated on a sand pile and before and be- 
hind him he saw other sand piles, a chain 
of dunes. "Hey! I've seen you before! You 
and another guy were riding this train. 
That's luck, to pick a car with someone 
on it." 

'Tom," said the fellow, and with a grin, 
held out his hand. "We were three cars 
back— took awhile to get here through all 
that sand. Here comes Henry now." He 
jerked his wobbling double chins toward 
the rear of the car. A short man was just 
plodding to the crest of the third dune 
behind them, his long, yellow hair whip- 
ping around his face; his arm went up in 
greeting as he plunge-stepped down the 
dune and out of sight. Shortly, he reap- 




peared on the dune two cars behind. Be- 
fore the beer bubbles stopped tickling, 
Henry was beside them, shrugging off the 
small back pack he carried and digging a 
hole in their mountain. 

'Those are pretty fancy train duds," 
Henry observed, glancing at John as he 
buried more cans in the sand. "You taking 
the train to work?" 

John poked his finger beneath the knot 
of his tie and wiggled it loose. He pulled 
the tail through and held it like a home- 
ward-bound pennant, and it snapped in 
the wind. 

"Nope, I'm taking it away from work. 
I'm going to be a hobo — like you guys." 
The tie sailed into the air and landed in 
the car behind them, snaking over the 
sand in the wind. The bums grirmed. 

"Right on," said Tom. 

"Yeah," said Henry. "Where do you 
work?" 

He told them about the office and never- 
ending squares. Worksheets, cinderblocks, 
calendars, acoustic tiles, and Menzel's 
checkered tie. "And then they took my 
windows." 

"Well, welcome aboard," Tom said. 
"It's not every day you meet a free man." 
He dug in the sand for another can. 

"Can't say as I ever met one," Heruy 
said. "Here's to a free man." Haze blaiJceted 
the horizon; trawlers floated on it. Out- 
side the city the tracks hugged the coast, 
leaping over arroyos on arched trellises. 
Tom wailed the blues on a mouth harp, 
with two sour notes, and Henry tapped 
percussion with two empty cans. "ALL- 
right, ALL-right," he said, when John got 
carried away and blasted into 'The Train 
That Carried My Girl From Town," and 
they CLACK-CLACKED into the afternoon. 

'W^oo.' John, it's been great having you 
aboard. We sure needed vocals, didn't we 
Henry?" 

'That's a fact," said Henry. The air 
filled with a vicious screeching and rattling; 
the train slowed to a crawl. Pillars of 
steam spiraled from three gigantic stacks a 
mile ahead. John blinked at the sheds, 
conveyors and silos, everything the color 
of the sand. The clacks settled down to 
high-heel clicks as the train inched towards 
the buildings. A red Cadillac pulled abreast 
of their car. Its horn tooted. 

"Right on time, " observed Henry. 

"Who's that?" 

'That's Mary, my wife. She gives us a 
lift every fourth Thursday," Tom said. 

"What's that place?" 

"Davenport Cement Works. They make 
that pre-mixed concrete and cinder blocks. 
Thousands and thousands of em. That's 
what they use all the sand for. Pick it up 
south of Salinas and run it in every Thurs- 
day. Heck, this line's only sixty miles lor\g. 
But it's a swell ride, huh John?" 

"It sure is, " said Henry. 



by G. Y. Jennings 



22 



PROCESSED WORLD 19 



All in a Day's Work 



T ' 

JL he air was hot, smelled of 
plastic. 

'There's nothing wrong with 
plastic," the old man said, con- 
vinced. "It's all a damn connmunist plot, this 
cancer thing." He worked with a hot glue 
gun, cementing plastic wedges in the cor- 
ners of black and brown plastic shutters. 
He was past 60 and had worked with 
the plastic company for over 10 years. 
Furniture, that's what the young guys said 
about him. Furniture taking up space. 

Pam, that's what they called it. 
Polyurethane Pam. 

It was a huge machine which ate co- 
lored plastic pellets and shit out semi- 
transparent sheets. The sheets were fitted 
in metal runners and sold as shower stall 
doors. My job was to guide the sheets out 
of Pam the Plastic Extruder, snap off hot 
excess strips which burned the tips of the 
fingers, throw the strips in a recycle bin, 
and place the sheets on a dolly. 

Over and over, eight hours a day. 

The stench of plastic impregnated every- 
thing—my hair, my skin, my clothes, the 
peanut butter and jelly sandwich I ate daily 
at noon. 

Cancer, I thought. 

Lab animals with ugly grey tumors pro- 
tuberating from beneath fur. At night, af- 
ter washing the odious smell of plastic 
off my body with hot water and soap, 
I thought about cancer. Who knows? 
The scientists know, but they aren't say- 
ing. Some of them are saying, but nobody 
is listening. Cancer's signature is intan- 
gible—it appears, after 20 years of inhaling 
noxious plastic vapors, toxic fumes, smoke, 
and it gives very little indication of where 
it came from. 

The victim sleeps, uncertain. 

II 

Red marker on cardboard: 

PLEASE GIVE ME A JOB. 

The old woman and I wait for the War- 
ren thru bus. It's 30 minutes late, as usual. 

"He ain't gonna get a job," the old 
woman says. 

"Why? He's willing," I say. 

The man grips his placard and walks 
up and down the sidewalk. He wants a 
job. It's not a huge request. A little dig- 
nity, self-respect. But nobody's hiring. No- 
body wants a man who probably worked 
for 20 years on an automotive line or in 
some dingy tool-&-die. 



"The Depression was bad," the old wo- 
man says. "But I ain't never seen nothing 
like this. Old and young folks are getting 
thrown out on the street with nowhere to 
go. Crazy folks, too. There's always a 
line at the soup kitchen. I don't care what 
that president says. He should come to 
Detroit and see what is going on." 

MY NAME IS FRANK MILEWSKI. 
PLEASE GIVE ME A JOB. 

Maybe Frank Milewski assembled brakes 
at River Rouge. Maybe he wasn't sick or 
late one day in 20 years. It doesn't mat- 
ter. There's no place for him. He doesn't 
figure in the new scheme. Maybe, if he's 
lucky, he'll get a job working as a jani- 
tor at Sears or K-Mart making $4.50 an 
hour. 

It's difficult to live decently when you 
make $4.50 an hour. This is America, 
not Honduras. FrarJc Milewski lives in a 
country where the standard of affluence 
is determined by the number of things an 
individual owns. One cannot buy many 
things earning $4.50 an hour. One cannot 
get sick and buy medical care earning 
$4.50 an hour, no benefits. 

Frank Milewski was probably 
building a nest egg with his ^^^ 

factory earnings when they 
pink-slipped him. They assigned 
him to the industrial scrap heap. 
People like Frank Milewski be- 
lieve in the American Dream. 
Now many of them pound the 
cold pavement, begging for a 
job: dishwasher, waitress, tire 
mechanic, maid, janitor at 
Burger King. 

"Peoples' hearts are turning 
to ice, " the old woman says. 

"Nobody cares?" 

"Some do but there's less and 
less. Nobody trusts Jesus any- 
more. There's no faith in God. 
I worry about the children, 
the poor little children. What's 
the future hold for them? I 
know one thing— I don't wanna 
be around in 10 years to find 
out." 



You are strong today, weak tomorrow. 

Will I one day become a victim, a sta- 
tistic in the enlarging ledger of Social 
Darwinism? What do you think? Do you 
think our futures will be any less brutal, 
any more humane? 

The bus moves in on us. 

People, ferrying between mundane jobs 
or school, convene under the bus boarding 
sign. The first bitirig winds of winter howl 
piteously through the wide conduit of street. 
People struggle with dignity 2md respect 
in 30 different ways. 

PLEASE GIVE ME A JOB. A CHANCE. 
HOPE. 

Frank Milewski walks up the street, past 
the warm windows of the old market and 
the new bank. People improvise, learn to 
dance as the economic heat is turned up. 
Frank Milewski walks with his desperate 
placard as the traffic on Warren Avenue 
moves back and forth with unremitting 
persistence. 

New Darwinism, exploding from behind 

a densely massed curtain of polluted 

AV"" snow clouds, splinters 

the horizon. 



SHI OIHdVHO 




RKOCESSeO WORLD 19 



23 



Ill 



Early afternoon, I stop in for coffee. 

Two white plain clothes cops sit at a table. They have walkie talkies bulging 
from under nylon windbreakers. I know they also have concealed guns. They 
sit poker-faced, sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes. They are taking a # 




short break from the reality of the streets. 

"Milfred, my man," a husky black man says. The cops acknow- 
ledge him with disinterested nods. 

"You peddling stuff, Jackson?" one of the cops inquires. ^ 

"Me? Aw, man!" Jackson says, striking a theatrical pose intended to,^!*" 
argue his innocence. "I stop that shit long time ago. You won't J-" 
catch me out there selling any shit. That's kid play. Man, the ^ 
school kids are selling that crap now." *;■ 

The cops don't like Jackson. i^ 

They can't do much about the kids. ^' 

I'm reading a newspaper at the counter. Korean diplomats killed by a ;/ 
bomb. There is speculation: the communists did it. The Korean military 
is on red alert. A young waitress slants lazily against the counter. She 
reads the horoscopes. I can hear the cops laugh at something Jack- 
son has to say. Dope pumpo through underground sewers of de- 
spair. High school kids dream of fancy cars, jewelry, nice clothes, 
nickel-plated pistols. There isn't much any of us can do about it. 

"Who blew away that dude at the projects?" Jackson asks. 

"Can't tell you. I don't know," a cop admits. 

"Competition?" 

"Scum Warriors." 

"Who wants competition?" 

A joke. Jackson smiles. The cops smirk. 

Who runs the dope? How much dope? Who sells it? 
Enough sold to keep the ghettos from bursting into flames 
again? I think the cops are part of it. Complicity is ex- 
ceptionally profitable, part and parcel of a hard-edged 
street capitalism. Jackson is part of it. John Q. 
Public, however, doesn't want to see kids involved 
in rurming vials of crack. Keep the kids out. It's 
too much when kids have running gun battles 
in the street. 

I drir\k my coffee. 

Kids selling dope. What will they sell to- 
morrow? How many 14-year-olds will be shot? 

The cops aren't able to stop it. 

Be afraid tomorrow. 



4 



I 

J 
I 

m 

m 

f. yj: . 



m 







"I think that there is nothing, not t 

more opposed to poetry, to philo 

to life itself, than this incessant h 

— Henry Da 

rv 

If he's off the floor this much," the for 

his grunting underling, "we can't us< 

It was a steel fabrication shop in Stone Mount 

was in the stall reading a newspaper. The John s 

urine and sweat. They didn't bother to hire an 

My job was die assistant to a grizzly old man who had 

was two o'clock in the afternoon and I'd cut my hand fc 

wasn't a first aid station, but the foreman kept bandaids i 

sight of blood, frowned upon an injured employee. So 

around my bleeding wound and retreated to the sanctuai 

reading a newspaper when the foreman came in with m.\ 

bowel problem didn't cure itself by the next day, he told 

on the street looking for another job. 

Since I had a note due on the car, my bowel problem 
afternoon. 

I remember staring at the old man's digitless hand as w 
sheets of steel in the die. No fingers on one hand, few teel 
noon about a retirement of whiskey and fishing. I gues 
while drunk at the die. 
After six weeks, I walked out. 
VI 

What are you gonna do?" he asked. I glance 
chewed on the question. "What am I gonna 
"With the writing." 
"Write it. Does it matter? I'm not submittii\g now," I 
mouth. I knew my friend disliked the helpelessly lost ii 
the snobbish academics. 
"Write for money," my friend sug 
"Money? Purity? I can't write anything except m 
It was true. I tried a short story, but it was c 
^ v» and failed miserably. Poetry was out of the q 

:.i V : . write poetry . 

' • "Write for the trade magazines, "my frie 

, .<-- "Yeah," I said. "Sure. The 

\; '■•'■•; ' Suddenly I had the urge t( 

;• Vv. y-^ ^ alone at the keyboard comp 

fragmented story. The subje( 

nal, the never-ending confe 

wanted the motion of the woi 

But such things are not re 

rational. I have to concern nr 

survival while scrambling t( 

my feet while riding the seen: 

less treadmill of western civ 

If the writing does not sell, il 

say anything worth selling, ii 

vival. To survive I must lisl 

constant whine of comme 

prattle of profit. 

It makes my head hu 

"Write for the trades 

My head aches. 



24 



PROCESSED WORLD 19 



I crime, 
hy, ay, ^ 
ess. " 
Thoreau 



n said to 



'^, 



\ 



^cab, they called her. After 90 days, you join automatically— no choice, you are signed on and dues are taken from your pay- 



%. 



%. 






Georgia, and I 
;d of week-old 
ly to clean it. 

all the fingers of one hand. It 
; third time that day. There 
office desk. He purled at the 
ipped a C-fold paper towel 
grimy joh. I was in there 
ion supervisor. If my 
nderling, I'd be out 

ed up that very 

efully positioned 
e talked all after- 
ost the fingers 



from my magazine and 
I repeated. 

words twisting in my 
ndents and, of course. 



•^. 



■^ 



^ 



mal, " I told him. 
/, half-baked 
3n. I couldn't 

■oposed. 






check before you see it. 

She was recently hired, hadn't put in 90 days. She worked as an office helper, which is the same thing as a 
secretary. The union went out on strike. Everybody was out except the managers and supervisors. When she came 
to work, a union woman called her a scab. 
They might fire me, she explained. I'm not in the union yet. 

Scab, the uruon woman said. The union woman was dressed for a career. She looked identical to her 
management counterpart. Except, of course, for her union badge. Cross thel ine, she threatened, 
and you're a scab. Simple as that, no substitutions. 

She couldn't afford to lose her job. Divorced, with a young daughter. A sullen and occasionally 
violent ex who did everything he could to make her life difficult. 

She needed the job, regardless of how little it paid. Her ex was months behind in the 
\._ child support. She lived in the high rent district where she put her daughter in a good school. 

Scab or not, she crossed the line. 
'*r^ The union put her on the list: scab. After the strike was settled, the union woman made 

i,. it tough for her. Not in so many words she told her that the union wouldn't back her up if 
3 there were to be trouble in the office. The union, like management, needed logs for the fire, 
• enemies to fortify a fragile equilibrium. 
' > Last year they went out on strike again. 

• \ She was one of a handful who wanted to push management against the wire on the con- 

• • tract. But sell-outs— professional union sell-outs with large incomes — steered the member- 

• ; • ship into a watered-down contract which left them essentially where they had started. She 
■-;'out for six weeks and came up with nothing. She had to borrow money in order to stay on 
,;hi^ feet and pay the bills. Her ex wasn't about to help out. The union had sold the member- 

.;..» ship down the river. The union was run by people who thought like managers and^the 
presidents of large multinational corporations. 

A few.'days after the strike, she saw the 
union woman at McDonalds. She was sitting 
in McDort^lds with a coffee when the union 
woman Vame in. The union woman could 
have .passcJd as a manager or president's ad- 
jutant; Her new union car was double-parked 
at the curb. The union woman bought ham- 
burgers, at McDonalds — a non-unionized, 
minimum' • wage employer which had vehe- 
mently rfeisted all organizing efforts. She ap- 
parentty- paw nothing wrong with it. Or, 
more'lifeely, was blind. 

But she. knew a scab_when she saw one. 




PKOCeSSED WORLD 19 



VII 



It's an insurance company. 

I do and I don't know what I'm getting 
myself into. "Our clerks advance rapidly," 
the beaming stooge tells me the day I hire 
on. I don't care about advancement. I know 
I'll never get there. All I want is to be left 
alone, to work an easy job, make enough 
money to put a roof over my head and 
write in the evenings— an impossible dream, 
I realize. 

Do it like a whore, for the money. 

They provide a desk. They allow space 
for family photographs on the vacuous 
white formica wall of an office partition. 
The Supe, a bom-again Christian with a 
700 Club pin affixed to his lapel, intro- 
duces me to the job. Filing, sorting, proof- 
reading. More filing, sorting. Endlessly, 
until you're ready for a pension, a retire- 
ment of unkind poverty. 

I complete one stack, go after another. 

Years of absurd work, going nowhere. 

Never advance. > . :, . ■ 

Always mediocre, -r ■ • . ' ' . 



VIII 



I stare at the sign, glowering. 

ARE YOU TIRED OF NOT MAKING 
ENOUGH MONEY? 

It's fixed to a runner slotted above my' 
- head on the green metal wall of the Grand 
River thru. 

Always something to sell, I think. 

A dejected ad photograph man with his 
face buried in his hands. This man, it is 
hoped I'll believe, is extremely tired of not 
. making enough money. He's tired of being 
passed over, of not being included in the 
Megabuck Dream. Do the people riding 
Grand River thru identify with the un- 
happy man in the photograph? Will they 
buy that which the ad agency was hired to 
. sell — in this instance, a degree from an 
electronics technical school — and move 
the money around? 

The man in the photograph is a loser. 

Because he is not on the Fortime 500 list. 
'1 What a pile of shit, I think. 



■V> 




^^ 



y 



Economic roles. It's easy, see? Over JjA 
there, that's Machine Shop. Art Class '' ' 
there. And over there is Economics Class. 
Which will it be? Banker? Laborer? Preg- 
nant housewife? Soldier? Secretary? It's ;' $.; 
easy. It's also very hard, depending on -j*?^ 
your decision. It depends on the role you v;''} 
take or the one you end up with. Depends (> -j 
on whose reality you're buyirvg. v.^' 

I'm not buying anything. ' . •<' ; 

I'm not the buy on TV, or the one in the ';• .-' 
photograph. '/'.-^ 

Not an actor. Not the president of the • ' 
United States. I'm not a computer clerk 
just now getting his start, learning dis- 
appointment. I'm trying to nm, but my 
feet are inexplicably stuck in the ooze of 
economic quicksand. 

"Southfield Cross," the driver drones. 

TIRED OF NOT MAKING ENOUGH 
MONEY? 

"I'm tired of incessant bullshit," I mutter, . 
too loud. A tough-looking kid, his black 
leather jacket resplendent with metal studs 
which swim under insipid neon, stares at 
me. I'm a crazy gringo. 

When the door sibilates open, I depart. 

Dirty sun in my eyes. 

THE END 

' ■ by Kurt Nimmo ' 




PKOcesseo world i9 



Kaiser Don't Care! 
SEIU Neither! 



Rank & File Activists Talk About the Kaiser Strike 



"The strike slogan was 'Kaiser Don't Care' and they 
don't care about the patients. We care about the 
patients and that's how they get the work out of us 
and that builds resentment in us... They [Kaiser] 
know we'll get in there and work our butt off. " 
— Blanche Bebb, X-ray technician. Committee for a 
Democratic Union (CDU), negotiating committee 
member, SEIU Local 250. 



"Kaiser is the perfect example of waste because 
every time a problem comes up, their solution is to 
hire a new supervisor — I've worked at Merrill Lynch 
and American Express. They are huge, totally worth- 
less corporations and Kaiser is more top-heavy with 
supervisors than they were."— Dermy Smith, Nurse's 
Aide, Committee for a Democratic Union (CDU), 
SEIU Local 250 member. 



rrom October 27 to December 13, 1986, 
9,000 Kaiser Hospital workers through- 
out northern California were on strike. 
The strike's key issue was Kaiser's goal of 
imposing a two-tier wage system (i.e. 
where new hires are paid less than cur- 
rent workers), a goal they ultimately 
achieved in spite of workers voting it 
down: at first by a 4-1 margin and 

then by 55-45% after nearly six weeks on strike. 
The rank and file members of Local 250 bitterly re- 
sisted two-tier, rejecting Kaiser's contention that the 
company needed it to remain competitive. "If they 
wanted to do something about their so-called com- 
petition, they wouldn't have patients waiting three 
months to see a doctor," said Bebb. 

In late October, after two months of negotiations, 
SEIU Local 250 struck against a contract proposal 
that would have imposed a 30% lower wage on new 
hires in about half of Kaiser hospitals and clinics 
(those in the suburbs north of the Bay Area and in 
the Central Valley around Sacramento and Stock 
ton). Striking workers included 
licensed vocational nurses. 



respiratory therapists, pharmacists, x-ray techs, cleri- 
cals, and housekeepers. Another 700 optical workers 
and medical technologists from two smaller unions 
were also on strike. 

On December 4 these two smaller unions accepted 
a 20% wage cut for new hires. However, most of 
these workers stayed off the job until the settlement 
with the larger Local 250 ten days later, which pro- 
vided 15% less for new hires. Up to 200 workers 
from five other unions, as well as several hundred 
registered nurses, also honored picket lines. Sym- 
pathy walkouts by as many as 65% of Kaiser RNs 
during the first weeks led Kaiser to get a legal in- 
junction to prevent the California Nurses Association 
from engaging in such actions. In response, CAN 
members formed an ad hoc group separate from the 
union, RNs for Quality Care, to organize their sup- 
port for the strike. 

In spite of this support for the strike from other 
workers, some Kaiser workers blamed 
the union for not organizing 
more support. 



''When it comes to funda- 
mental things like union democracy or 
strong political action that would change the way 
health care is delivered in this country, the unions 
are reactionary/' —Denny Smith 



PROCESSED WORLD 19 



Ra^iT; 




In a post-strike S.F. Chronicle piece 
on Dec. 19, a Committee for a Democra- 
tic Union activist, John Mehring (a psychi- 
atric technician at another hospital) said: 
"If the SEIU was involved early on in the 
negotiations, why was the organization of 
the strike so haphazard and inconsistent? 
Why weren't strike benefits extended? If 
the handwriting was on the wall that two- 
tier was becoming more prevalent in Local 
250 contracts, why wasn't more effort done 
early so a united front could have been 
made?" 

Many Local 250 members believe the 
International sabotaged the strike. After 
collecting some $25 million in union dues 
over the last six years the International 
paid back $2.2 million in strike benefits. 
At the end of six weeks on strike, and two 
contract rejections by rank and file vote, 
SEIU armounced (about two weeks before 
Xmas) that strike benefits would be cut 
from $60 to $45 for that week, and cease 
altogether the following week. With no 
prior warning about diminishing strike 
funds, workers had no chance to develop 
outside strike fundii\g from the community 
and other workers and unions. [Just as we 
go to press, SEIU has blamed the exhaus- 
tion of strike benefits on a "breakdown" 
in management of members' dues by Local 
250 officials— SF Chron. 3-23-87.1 

In a wide-ranging interview with Blanche 
Bebb and Denny Smith, activists in the 
rank-and-file Committee for a Democratic 
Union (CDU), it became clear that the 
militance of Kaiser workers was very much 
in spite of the SEIU International. "99% of 
picket line activities were organized by the 
rank and file" said Bebb. "The union was 
only interested in the corporate campaign 
(i.e. pressuring directors and other com- 
panies to withdraw from their normal trans- 
actions with the struck firm) which is the 
'New Strategy for Unions'." 

The International came in to run the lo- 
cal some weeks before the strike actually 
began and since the strike's unsuccessful 
conclusion it has put the Local, which is 
some $800,000 in debt, into trusteeship. 
Since late 1986, it has suspended all meet- 
ings of the Local executive board and trus- 
tees. 

Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Pro- 
gram, by far the largest independent Health 
Maintenance Organization (HMO) (con- 
trolling over 58% of the market compared 
to its nearest competitor at 9%), is grow- 
ing nationally emd the Kaiser contract is a 
pace-setter for many of SEIU's other medi- 
cal contracts. After a lousy settlement 
three years ago in which part-timers lost 
extra pay and comp time for holiday work, 
disgruntled members elected seven rank 
and file activists on the CDU slate to the 
executive board of Local 250. The Inter- 
national came in at this time because its of- 
ficials feared that a bad contract would 
allow CDU to take over the Local in the 
elections scheduled for this spring. Now 



Do they care? 

Or don't 

they?!? 




that the International has presided over a 
bad settlement, it is using its ability to sus- 
pend democracy in the union. 

The International officials poorly or- 
ganized the strike. According to Bebb and 
Smith, officials ineffectually trained new 
shop stewards and a 49-member bargaining 
committee. 'The traiiung was more like est 
training— they didn't really talk about nego- 
tiations and what we were up against," 
said Bebb. The people designated by the 
union to head the negotiations had never 
negotiated with Kaiser before: an attorney 
and a representative from the Washington 
D.C. office of the International. 

In spite of its mistrust of uiuon officials, 
CDU agitated among the workers to sup- 
port the union and the strike. CDU urged 
a fight against the two-tier wage structure, 
while the International tried to make "qual- 
ity patient care" the main issue. Smarting 
from past media portrayals of striking hos- 
pital workers as callous, uncaring and 
selfish, the International pushed the idea 
for a joint labor-management patient care 
committee to improve quality. The original 
proposal was for a tripartite Local 250/ 
management /community committee: the 
negotiators ended up with an annual one- 
day seminar in which Kaiser managers 
and workers discuss patient care, with no 
community involvement. The International 
claimed this as a victory, a foot in the 
door, but Bebb says she'd rather not have 
it. She argues that this was an intentional 
distraction from the importance of resisting 
the two-tier: 'Two-tier is about patient care, 
because morale will plummet when the 
two-tier is implemented. " 

"I feel really proud that we twice re- 
jected the two-tier [during this period]," 
Smith says. Bebb: "The International had 



to really get behind it and sell it. They 
shoved it down our throats. We forced 
them out of the closet, though. " The In- 
ternational accepted a 2-tier proposal from 
Kaiser and pushed it through the bargain- 
ing committee with no recommendation,' 
hoping that the members would accept it, 
so they could blame the members for not 
being strong enough. When workers re- 
jected the contract on Dec. 4 by a 55-45% 
margin, the International was forced to 
really sell the next proposal, with "heavy- 
duty speakers" at every meeting. It won 
ratification on Dec. 13 in spite of being 
voted down by a slim majority in San 
Francisco and by a 2-1 margin in the East 
Bay. 

At this point our interview digressed 
beyond the strike. Local 250 members have 
already been taking direct action to ad- 
dress patient care at SF Kaiser. Two workers 
ciKulated a petition to create an AIDS- 
only ward after ongoing difficulties in pro- 
viding adequate care for AIDS patients. 
Combined with pressure from the SF City 
Human Rights Commission (which in turn 
was being pressured by dissatisfied. Kaiser- 
insured gay city employees), the workers' 
initiative succeeded. 

Denny Smith: 'The uruon, typically, wanted 
to do it top-down. Our business agent, Sal 
Roselli, wanted to handle everything him- 
self. He wanted to call the hospital ad- 
ministrator and work things out... Our 
AIDS-Action committee had to constantly 
keep him in check so that decisions were 
made by the rank and file, because it was 
our idea in the first place. His whole ap- 
proach, like the uiuon's approach to every- 
thing, is to pick up the phone and call 
some topdog in the hospital, which is pro- 
bably the way contracts get signed. The 
AIDS Ward is working now, and because 
it has pressure from the workers and com- 
munity, it works pretty well." 

Smith is a charter member of CDU, 
which was formed in 1981 after several 
years of informal rank and file caucuses 
in the late 70s. CDU's core consists of 10- 
20 activists, with many more supporters 
throughout the local. Smith characterized 
the breakdown of attitudes among CDU's 
rank and file allies as follows: those who 
are angry because they didn't get a raise 
from the strike; those who are angry be- 
cause they see the union is undemocratic 
and is going downhill; those who would 
join CDU but are intimidated by red- 
baiting; and those who would be activists 
but for kids at home and/or two-job sche- 
dules. I asked Smith and Bebb to describe 
their fondest fantasies if they were to get 
rid of the current leadership and change 
the union. The discussion kept on widerung 
in scope from that point on. 
Blanche Bebb: I think the strike has proven 
that our members are so full of energy and 
imagination and ideas that they never have 
any chance to express... We want to see 
the rank and file get liberated and really 



28 



PROCESSED WORLD 19 



see the union as theirs and use it. To some 
extent that happened during the strike — 
people were going down there and taking 
the initiative... The main thing is that we 
wouldn't be afraid of the rank and file. 
That's a big difference. We believe in and 
trust the members, and we're not into 
having a job in a bureaucracy. We could 
have creative picket lines and cultural ac- 
tivities at meetings, not just read the min- 
utes from the last meeting. 

Denny Smith: These guys make [meetings] 
as dead as possible. They couldn't be more 
lethal. 

Processed World: In talking about all this 
stuff it's very easy to get bogged down in 
all the immediate details — the contract, 
working conditions. But the longer view is 



that U.S. health care delivery is being dra- 
matically restructured. Part of that is the 
concentration of capital in mega-hospital 
corporations, and another is a major push 
by insurance companies, government and 
these hospital corporations to maintain the 
private control of health care profits. 
There are plenty of ideas floating around 
about how to restructure health care toward 
not-for-profit, human need. Are there any 
embryonic committees within CDU which 
are trying to address this bigger picture? 
Maybe from the point of view of deve- 
loping an alternative agenda and based on 
alternative values? 

D.S.: Health care in the U.S. is such a 
fucked-up system. Any fair-minded person 
would have to support some kind of na- 



tional cradle-to-grave health care system 
that doesn't depend on profits or the greed 
of some chairmen of the board. We've had 
some brainstorming sessions about what 
our caucus might do if we won some 
powerful position in the union: home care 
for the homeless; a hiring hall for un- 
employed health workers; political action 
to push for a national health plan; political 
action to push for better care for geria- 
tric and nursing home patients... 
B.B.: Unions are tied into the Health Main- 
tenance Organization (HMO) idea. A lot 
of unions control the trust funds that pay 
the money and they have a vested interest 
in the current set-up. It won't be easy to 
get unions out of HMOs, just like it won't 



01785 B^ 



MELU 




PROCESSED WORLD 19 



be easy to get unions to take a progres- 
sive stand on anything! This is the AFL- 
CIO: top, top, top. SEIU International is 
part of that. That's what these Interna- 
tionals and the AFL-CIO are about: keep- 
ing us in line as workers. 

But on the other hand, workers need 
unions — we have to be in unions. I'm 
scared about three years down the line, de- 
pending on where the members are at, if 
they let it be known that they're not ready 
to strike, we may lose our seniority, in 
which case, well hell, we won't have a 
job. 

D.S.: ...When it comes to fundamental 
things like union democracy or strong poli- 
tical action that would change the way 
health care is delivered in this country, 
the unions are reactionary. They just take 
easy positions on things that won't cost 
them any union dues. 
PW: Internationals and most locals asso- 
ciated with the AFL-CIO are so wrapped 
up in capitalism and such staunch defen- 
ders of The Way It Is Now because the 
officials are making $50-$60,000 a year. 
Why would they want to fight against that? 
They get to drive around in big cars, hang 
out with important people, get talked 
about in the newspapers. Which raises a 
difficult question for rank and file activists 
like yourselves: what's to prevent the next 
person in charge from being corrupted by 
that status and privilege and power? If 
you get elected into that same system, it 
seems to be quite difficult to abolish that 
power you finally won after all those years 
of trying to get it. 

B.B.: I don't think you can do it just within 
one local... I just have to be optimistic. 
God knows when it'll happen, but there is 
a movement... Local 1199 in N.Y.C. is a 
good example. Since a rank and file com- 
mittee took over they've done a lot — they 
do theater, they've put people through 
medical school, even housekeepers. But 
this is the exception, and anyway, any- 
time you get anywhere, the International 
comes in. 




PW: And trusteeship is not far behind... 
What are unions doing essentially but bar- 
tering the terms of slavery? — that's the old 
ultra-left line,' which we could argue about 
to the end of time. 

BB: But it is the organization of the work- 
ing class... You can't just run out and cre- 
ate something else... 

PW: Most unions, as you have pointed 
out in this interview, have very little to do 
with what the workers they represent are 
actually doing on a day-to-day basis, and 
often times, they put themselves in active 
opposition to what the workers want. The 
union becomes a different entity with dif- 
ferent interests. When workers are trying 
to find new methods they invariably find 
their International and /or Local right in 
the way. It's one of the first obstacles they 
have to overcome. So to talk about the 
Local as the organization of those workers 
isn't rezdly accurate. If those workers are 
organized, that's their organization, whe- 
ther it be informal or something like CDU. 
Whereas the Local is a remnant of an 
earlier effort that became separate from 
what gave it its original impetus, and now 
comes back as an obstacle. 

D.S.: As CDU we're definitely pro-union. 
This has come up because the union has 
spread rumors that we're anti-union and 
want to decertify and we have to tell people: 
"No, we just want to take back our union, 
because the union is ours." 

B.B.: During the strike we were left on our 
own on the picket lines, and then people 
kept saying: 'We are the union' — I heard a 
lot of that. It's the classic one they're al- 
ways telling us: "What are you complain- 
ing about the union for? You are the union," 
of course knowing that we're not. But du- 
ring the strike, we were, we kept the com- 
mittees going, we raised the money, we did 
all the work, we picketed. How do we 
take that and keep it going? 

PW: So that's the living union as opposed 
to the dead union — the legal entity that 
has all the money. 

B.B.: On the shop floor level, the shop 
stewards can do a helluva lot. You can 
organize about anything you want, call 
meetings about anything, demand to see 
anyone. They can say 'No,' and then you 
can organize an action with 20 people — 
but in order to be protected and not get 
your activists fired, you need the protec- 
tion of the union. You know you'd be out 
the door if you did these things and you 
weren't a shop steward, or if it weren't a 
union shop. 

PW:That's a good example of how you get 
some legal protection from the union, but 
there are also numerous examples of people 
getting the axe with the complicity of their 
union, and they're gone, that's the end of 
it. 

B.B./D.S.: Yeah, it's true. 



PW: Unless you have that extremely strong 
rank-and-file movement that will get out 
there right away and strike or act on be- 
half of the person who got axed with the 
union's complicity or whatever the issue 
may be, then the union is ephemeral, it 
doesn't really exist. The union is action, 
living action by the workers, and without 
that what have you got? 

D.S.: Sometimes I feel like if (the unions] 
are rotten to the core then the whole thing 
needs to be scrapped and [we need to] 
start over with some new form of workers' 
organization. But in the strike, the scabs 
would always say: 'Look what your union 
did last time, why would you be out on 
the sidewalk if that's what they're going to 
do to you?' And then the people who 
were really willing to fight would counter 
that with: This is my union and I'm goni\a 
be out there because I'm the one who's 
gonna be screwed.' It was the vocabulary 
of the day that we had to deal with. I think 
other forms may arise, perhaps not in the 
near future... 

B.B.: That's why I say you have to be flex- 
ible, ready for any opportunity, to make 
alliances with everybody you can, and just 
be there at the time. It's like this strike, 
we could have said 'SEIU is gonna sell you 
out anyway, so why bother?' but we said, 
'Oh no, jump in there, get involved.' And 
I think we gained a lot, lost money but 
gained more. 

PW: We have these arguments within the 
PW collective all the time. Even if you are 
critical of the existing bureaucratic unions, 
nevertheless (and your case is a good 
example) the union provides a context in 
which people can organize and talk to each 
other. Even if they find themselves having 
to talk about being in opposition to that 
union, they've already linked up that way. 
It creates certain channels of communica- 
tion that are very hard to establish from 
scratch. Then the problem becomes voca- 
bulary, and finding a language that breaks 
throu^ the conceptual baggage. For 
example, putting out the word 'union' as 
an "association of individuals getting toge- 
ther for their mutual interests in opposition 
to the labor laws which have been written 
specifically to prevent them from getting 
anywhere," might change the whole com- 
plexion of that word. 

The interview then disintegrated into a 
general conversation on working class poli- 
tics around the world. A month after this 
interview was conducted. Local 250 was 
put into trusteeship in spite of strenuous 
efforts by Bebb, Smith and CDU to avert 
it. CDU will have to wait up to eighteen 
months before there is a union election. 
A lot of grassroots organizing will have to 
be maintained and consolidated in order 
for them to bring a new direction to SEIU 
Local 250 in the future. 
-Interview conducted by Lucius Cabins 



30 



PROCESSED WORLD 19 




Chips 'n' Dips 



he microchip industry's 
credibility regarding work- 
ers' health has dipped so 
low that the Semiconduc- 
tor Industry Association 
(SIA) recently invoked its 
own tattered image to 
dodge fresh evidence of dirt 
in its "clean" rooms. 

The evidence, which attracted 
national attention, issued from a 
University of Massachusetts study 
of Digital Equipment Corporation 
(DEC) workers. The focus was on 
workers who process microchips 
at DEC'S Hudson, Massachusetts, 
plant. Summaries of the study were 
released to DEC and the Boston 
Globe in December 1986. The study, 
according to Globe reporter Bruce 
Butterfield, found "double and 
higher the incidences of worker- 
reported rashes, headaches, and 
arthritis" and, among male work- 
ers, "significantly higher incidences 
of nausea." The most publicized 
finding, however, was of a twice- 
normal miscarriage rate — 39% — 
among workers in wafer-etching 
areas. An alarming 29% miscar- 
riage rate was found among wafer 
photolithography workers. 



Liable for damages from injured worker 
lawsuits, the industry responded by deny- 
ing, as it has for years, a causal con- 
nection between clean room chemicals and 
fetal damage. Inspired by self-interest, the 
industry dismisses claims that arsine, phos- 
phine, chlorine, and hydrofluoric and hy- 
drochloric acids — all found in abundance 
in most wafer fabs — contribute to the no- 
toriously high "systemic poisoning" rates 
among semiconductor workers (for more 
on clean room hazards, see "Chemicals 
Run Amok— Where's the Dirt?" in PW 17). 
DEC promptly banned on-site interviews 
with workers at the Hudson plant. 

Amid all the dissembling over the study's 
results, some firms adopted "precautionary" 
policies that appeared to deal with the 
problem. DEC armounced a policy of free 
pregnancy testing and job transfers for all 
women of child bearing age who worked 
in the high-risk areas. AT&T went furthest, 
mandating job transfers out of controver- 
sial clean room work for pregnant women. 
Despite evidence that clean room chemicals 
(such as glycol ethers) cause shrunken 
testicles, not to mention a variety of dis- 
orders in male and female laboratory ani- 
mals, none of the chipmakers would guaran- 
tee transfers for exposed male workers, 
who, the industry explained, weren't having 
the miscarriages. 

Sheila Sandow is a spokesperson for the 
SIA. According to the Silicon Valley 
Toxic News (Winter 1987) and San Jose 
Mercury News, Ms. Sandow responded to 
the DEC-sponsored study by 
noting that women 
working 



in certain chipmaking areas have a "per- 
sonal responsibility" for their health and 
pregnancy. Accordingly, Sandow ad- 
vised women to consult their doctors (not , 
their lawyers) if they become pregnant. 
She also allowed that DEC and AT&T's 
policies of job transfers for affected women 
"could create problems, esf)edally when the 
industry as a whole is in a slump." 

In March, the SIA assumed an even 
more contorted public posture by rejecting 
calls from watchdog groups— and an SIA 
task force — for a comprehensive health 
study of the chipmaking industry. Why? 
Because the SIA's board doubted whether 
the public would accept an SIA-sponsored 
study as objective. The SIA, tossing reason 
aside, instead recommended that semicon- 
ductor firms perform their own, isolated 
studies. But in a prior episode, both the 
SIA and its member firms had established 
their disdain for impartial inquiry, as well 
as their capacity for skullduggery. 

By 1980 the occupational illness rate for 
Silicon Valley semiconductor workers (1.3 
illnesses per 100 workers) was over three 
times that for manufacturing workers (.04/ 
100). Compiled from a California Depart- 
ment of Industrial Relations (CDIR) sur- 
vey, the high illness rate included mana- 
gers and nonproduction employees and 
thus understated the danger. The rate also 
discounted latent disorders, 
miscarriages. 



mm 



By simply changing the 
way it recorded injuries and illnesses, 
the semiconductor industry produced an apparent 
two-thirds drop in its occupational illness rate. 



PKOCCSSED WOULD 19 




and birth defects, as well as the special 
wear and tear exacted by this stressful 
work. 

The industry's high illness rate prompted 
reviews and planned studies by the Califor- 
nia OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health 
Administration), and, on a federal level, by 
NIOSH (National Institute for Occupa- 
tional Safety and Health). In response the 
SIA "decided to re-evaluate" (as an SIA 
lawyer put it) the way it recorded chemi- 
cal "incidents." By simply changing the 
way it recorded injuries and illnesses, the 
industry produced an apparent two-thirds 
drop in its occupational illness rate. Under 
equally mysterious circumstances, the go- 
vernment agencies planning the studies 
were dissuaded from conducting them. 

The SIA's revisionism — and the govern- 
ment's reluctance to challenge it — allowed 
the companies to avoid a legal obligation 
to report many work-related illnesses. This 
helped establish a secvilar trend of declining 
occupational illness data that could later 
be used as evidence against disabled work- 
ers' legal claims. Now, the unpublished 
DEC study, which the SIA may yet seek 
to discredit, threatens to arm disabled 
workers with new evidence against the 
industry's ill-gotten innocence. 

NIOSH, according to the Globe, has 
requested a copy of the DEC study and is 
"considering launching a federal health study 
of the semiconductor industry." California 
health officials, too, are under pressure to 
conduct research into Silicon Valley elec- 
tronics plants. But these are dubious enter- 
prises. In February the Wall Street Journal 
reported on the progress of a $450,000 
on-again, off -again VDT (Video Display 
Terminal) hazards study by NIOSH. Bell- 
South Corp., an Atlanta-based telephone 
company, enjoined NIOSH scientists from 
asking employees about "their fertility his- 
tory [sic] or their perception of occupa- 
tional stress, a potential cause of miscar- 
riages." When NIOSH insisted on the rele- 



vance of these questions to the study, 
BellSouth contacted the White House, 
whose Office of Management and Budget 
then "threatened to block fimding for the 
study unless the questions were dropped." 
NIOSH relented, thus impairing the VDT 
study. This retreat signaled a servility to 
capital's friends in high places that would 
likely blemish any NIOSH examination of 
the semiconductor industry workplace. 
California health officials, according to the 
San Jose Mercury News, are citing bare 
budgets and industry intransigence as ex- 
cuses not to study health problems in the 
clean room. "Industry is key to the success 
of the study," according to the state's chief 
of epidemiological studies. Government 
agencies remain an unlikely ally for labor. 
The industry is biding its time. 

In the aftermath of the Hudson plant 
study, some three dozen organizations 
ranging from the Santa Clara Center for 
Occupational Safety and Health (SCCOSH) 
to IBM Workers United and the Environ- 
mental Defense Fund, as well as union 
activists and officials, sent an open letter 
to semiconductor firms and drafted a posi- 
tion paper on "Health and Safety in the 
Semiconductor Industry." The groups 
are asking the industry to "remove toxics, 
not workers" from the workplace. They 
also charge that exclusionary policies such 
as AT&T's are short-sighted and possibly 
in violation of federal laws that forbid 
employment discrimination on the basis of 
sex or pregnancy. 

For more information on reproductive 
and other hazards in the high-tech work- 
place, call the Confidential Reproductive 
Hazards Hotline (408) 998-4050 or (800) 
4242-USA. For copies of Silicon Valley 
Toxic News, contact the Silicon Valley 
Toxics Coalition, 277 West Hedding St. 
§208. San Jose, CA 95110 or call (408) 
287-6707. 

—Dennis Hayes 



PROCESSED WORLD 19 







A 



A Day Older, A Dollar Poorer! 



I 



n ?]N ^15 "Fire and Ice" 
covered a strike at Watson- 
ville Canning and Frozen 
Food Company in Califor- 
nia. The strike began Sept. 
3, 1985 when the company 
slashed wages from an ave- 
rage of $6.66 to $4.75 an 
hour, as well as many other 
take-aways (dues checkoff, 
vacation pay for seasonal 
workers, etc.). The workers 
are represented by Team- 
sters Local 912, were mostly 
Hispanic women, and struck 
after an 800-1 vote. The 
company used legal injunc- 
tions and cops in its attempt 
to keep operating, but was 
unsuccessful. Workers re- 
fused to cross the picket 
lines, and the Watsonville 
community supported the 
strike. 

Despite the international union's lack of 
support, the strike continued for 18 months, 
with the workers running the finances, 
publicity, child-care and solidarity actions. 
Scabs were paid $5.15/hr. but the com- 
pany was never able to reach normal 



WKl 



production. Finally, in February of 1987 
Wells Fargo bank began foreclosure pro- 
ceedings against the now desperate com- 
pany (owing over $7 million). A group of 
creditors, mostly growers in the area, 
formed NORCAL Frozen Foods and bought 
the plant. They immediately re-opened 
negotiations, offering improved wages 
($5.85/hr., now the prevailing union wage 
in the area). The union officials approved, 
but the workers refused to ratify the of- 
fer, in particular because of inadequate 
medical coverage. Although the union cut 
off strike benefits and announced that the 
strike was over, the rank-and-file had a 
different idea and went back out on the 
picket lines. Five days later, the new own- 
ers gave in to the workers' medical de- 
mands as well as their demands for se- 
niority rights and amnesty for strikers 
(which was tantamount to dismissing the 
scabs). This contract was ratified by 543- 
21. The plant is now operating again, with 
full production expected by autunm '87. 
Although the new owners appear to be an 
improvement it remains to be seen if they 
will follow words with actions. 

So, after 18 months of poverty, mil- 
lions of dollars drained out of a tiny com- 
munity, numerous arrests and evictions, 
it's back to business as usual. The workers 
accepted a dollar an hour less, and other- 
wise are about where they were a year and 
a half ago. The company, however, not 
only didn't get its way, it went bankrupt. 
The workers gained an intangible benefit — 
they refused to give up, and broke their 
immediate enemy. Facing union busting and 
take-backs from the largest cannery in the 
U.S., a combative spirit and enduring 
tenacity carried the day. 



— Primitivo Morales 





PROCfSSf O WOBl 



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o o 




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o o 



O 



o o 



o o 



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o°ooo 




TIES 

for Judy Wapp and David Everest 

If you look closely at those who speak about 

"our flag" or "our country" 

you'll observe they have one thing in common: 

they wear ties. In each sector of the globe 

this is the same: before they get you to kill 

for them, or suffer for them, or hate for them 

they put on a tie, pick up the speech 

somebody else was paid to write, step to 

a microphone and start. Ties 

are the real flags of such people. 

The few women or priests among them dress 

in an equally recognizable manner. 

But ties let them identify their counterparts 

in different geographic areas. 

Later, after the war 

or the crisis or the trade dispute 

it will be revealed that the men and women of the ties 

made lots of money through deals in the other region 

while they were buying and selling 

the lives of the rest of us 

or the products we create at work 

or the minerals or crops found locally. 

Then the ties begin to flap 

about the "natural historic friendship 

between our two great peoples" 

until the time comes to seal a border again, 

recall ambassadors 

(who you'll note also wear ties) 

and energetically wave the flags. 

But always the first allegiance 

these talkers pledge to in the morning 

is their ties. 



On the plaza at the United Nations building in New York 

instead of flagpole after flagpole displaying 

the massed banners of the globe 

they should run up the world's ties: 

board of director ties, 

central committee ties, 

senior administrative staff ties. 

This would give a more accurate picture 

to the tours of school kids or anyone else attempting to grasp 

what goes on around the planet. 

Or, Neruda had a better scheme: every household, 

each family should fly their own flag. 

Every group or organization so inclined. 

Some would be more elaborate than others, 

some especially imaginative. All sorts of devices, 

slogans, shapes, trim. 

Under such circumstances, if a tie so much as breathes 

the word "fatherland" or "motherland" 

the evidence will be visible to everybody: 

we are many, not one. Individuals, not a herd. 

Differences, solidarities, uniquenesses. 

And we might choose 

other groupings than at present. 

A majority of flags could even decide 

to end the tieocracy, 

the rule by these treacherous little 

scraps of cloth. 

Tom Wayman 



grievance 

the sexual electricity 

at my workplace is so 

absent that I get 

backaches that 

surge up 

& down 

my spine they 

make my cock 

hard I will fill 

the void with my 

whole 

being 

I will couple 

with the 

corporate 

body 

our children 

will look like 

stock 

certificates 

William Talcott 





SHIVERING INTO THE FUTURE 

If they can store 
a human embryo 
on ice for four days 
in a lab 

Where's the surprise 
when they freeze 
a paycheck 
for seven weeks 
in a computer? The 
death of emotion 
was no immaculate 
conception. Lenny 
Tristano was 30 
years ahead of 
his time, the Birth 
of the Cool 
was a baby that 
grew up like 
Topsy on steroids, 
and now we've got 
a new cold mode 
of delay 

no other society's 
ever equaled. 

Tom Clark 



PROCESSED WOklD 19 



WRITE SOON 

You're not interested in ordinary people 

but in those fucked up to an 

extraordinary' degree. Tentativeness and caution 

aren't synonymous, so you have a point. 

Boarding the bus before dawn, we were seatmates 

who talked about politics, God, work, music and women 

— got off at a rest stop and wound up 

stranded someplace that wasn't even on the map. 

Two people nervously scanning a lonely depot. 



Walking like a cat aware of a sleeping junkyard dog 

measuring your sentences like pieces of adhesive tape 

fluffing the cushion of every received idea 

but not making it comfortable enough to rest on 

I remarked that you remind me of me, when I was learning 

how to be a homosexual, and failing the course. 

You laughed, of course, and we left the depot 

for the light from a nearby diner. 



With love, from America. 

November, 1986 



© 1986 Squirrel Bates 





the velocity of money 



"when money moves slowly 
the economy slows down" 
— time magazine 

large coins fall from the money plant 
I throw pennies from the back window 
at the cats near the fish pond 

the speed of money has been known 
to reach seven miles a second 
that was before 
electronic fund transfer techniques 

now money moves so fast 

a lot of it manages to escape gravity 

thats why my salary goes up so slowly 

if they gave me more money 
instead of sending it off into space 
I would contribute 

to the velocity of money here on earth 
I promise you 

William Talcott 



LUMPED ON THE BOWERY 

The 42 year old slit eyed wino, 

jailed in Manhattan for life 

without parole or sex or hope 

in solitary confinement, 

wine soaked his brain cells on the street alone 

and paint soaked canvas in his Bowery room. 

Billy the Psychedelic Wino 

a refugee from the old storms on St. Marks 

told him his stuff was as good as Picasso's. 

Last year an analyst came 

from the welfare department. 

She recommended he sober up 

& pursue his talent more vigorously. 

He had some one wino showings 

& his paintings began to collect 

in Park Avenue penthouses. 

He moved into a Soho loft 

where models competed for the stroke of his brush, 

& he danced with the people at Studio 54 & ate at Elaine's 

until a Gucci trodden exhibition 

on the Upper East Side, 

where a sly critic in a Brooks Brothers suit 

spotted similarities to the sketches 

received by the Pope at Easter 

from armless veterans taught by therapists 

to hold brushes between their teeth. 

Joseph Raffa 



PROCeSSCD WORLD 19 



35 




A 



settled into a slightly rough, 

publicly tough couch and folded 

her hands in her lap. Like a bird in 

- a spring tree, she soaked. 

At the semicircular command post that faced the 
lobby, a well-caked receptionist, tightly wrapped 
in navy blue polyester, pressed her buttons. "Yes, a 
Miss Micheri here," she blithely mispronounced Mackery, 
"to see Mr. Gibson," J.'s ears hung for the volley. Her eyes 
focused vaguely on a spot just below the center of the coffee 
table in front of her. A radio at the receptionist's post urged her 
in full choir to rush out and buy a truck as quickly as possible. It 
•was for her own good. "A Miss Mickernini," the receptionist con- 
tinued tumirijg the page in a celebrity magazine. "She was two minutes 
and thirty seconds late... All right." At this point, J. felt an over- 
whelming need to pick up the only piece of reading material on the 
table, a six month old copy of Real Estate Plus, and pretend to 
read as she felt scrutiny in the air. She wanted a job. She 
needed the money. "He'll be down in just a few minutes, 
the receptionist said, careful not to disturb her facial 
musculature. 

"Thank you," uttered J. concealing the sting of 
hearing her name casually garbled and realizing at 
once that falseness could be detected in her 
voice. She thought better of her creeping 
desire for a cigarette. That would 
surely be an unwelcome sign of 
nervousness or haughtiness. 
Two minutes and thirty 
seconds late? She open- 
ed the magazine to 
"The Five Hottest Sub- 
division Financing 
Techniques — and 
Why." 





SUI OIHdVHS 



\S>^-^ 



36 



PROCESSeO WORLD 19 



A hannonious and subdued electronic 
pulse, signaling an incoming phone call 
and a new age in technology, pressed 
from the switchboard. The receptionist 
took a deep, long drag on a cigarette. 
She pressed a button. "Great American 
United National Real Estate." She took a 
drag. Exhaling, "Who's calling?" In the 
background, J. noticed weighty blurbs 
now coming over the radio. Jeff the Wea- 
therman was speculating about radiation 
from a Russian nuclear power plant melt- 
down reaching town. Then a marching 
band boomed out a tune for frozen orange 
juice that either had a lot of pulp or only 
a little, J. couldn't tell, but she knew that 
the amount of pulp was important. She 
reached into her coat pocket to make sure, 
just in case, that she hadn't locked her keys 
in her car. No, she had them. And what 
was this? A peanut M&M. What a great 
surprise. She brought it to her mouth 
in a closed fist and, pretending to clear 
her throat, popped it in. No way would 
she chew it, she promised herself. Not only 
would chewing be entirely unacceptable 
before a job interview, but concentrating 
on the sweetness of the candy secretly 
melting in her mouth would be a kind of 
private meditation in order to preserve her 
sense of self in a belittling situation. 
Things were going well. She needed that 
job. 

"No, he's not at his desk right now," 
the receptionist dragged in a good and 
proper lie. "No, he doesn't see applicants. 
The first thing you want to do is send a 
copy of your resume to Personnel and 
they'll take it from there... Whatever is 
necessary, I'm sure." J. sank a little with 
the person on the other end of the line 
but couldn't help feeling just a wee bit 
superior for at least having gotten in the 
door. She imagined herself in just a few 
years running a good chunk of the place, 
being kind and understanding to her secre- 
tary, and going home to a fabulously 
remodeled kitchen. "No, no he doesn't... 
No, no... No, he's one of the biggest and 
not many people get to, eh... Yes, yes you 
may." At last a positive token signaled 
impending conclusion. It came with "Uh 
huh." J. was intrigued. One of the big- 
gest what? She almost smirked openly at 
her first thought, which was quickly fol- 
lowed by a decision to fire that recep- 
tionist as soon as she was in charge. 

Just then two men in dark blue suits 
walked in tandem through the reception 
area. "No, we're the victims here," one 
was arguing. "But this is the real world," 
protested the other. As they passed the 
receptionist, she closed her eyes and 
groaned to herself, loudly enough to be 
heard by the executives. 

"Just swimming," thought J. "Must be a 
temp. What kind of place is this, any- 
way?" She allowed her eyes to dart rapidly 
around the lobby, which seemed to open 
onto many more corridors than she had 



noticed when she came in. There was a 
whole catacomb of corridors, basically in 
shadow but with shafts of sunlight oc- 
casionally beaming yellow rectangles onto 
the glossy linoleum floor. Suddenly she 
realized that she was slouching, and as 
she worked herself up straight, she found 
herself hoping that the receptionist wasn't 
on such terms with her prospective boss 
that she could report such sloppiness to 
him. She leaned forward to replace the 
magazine on the table. 

"You just stay in your seat, young lady," 
snapped the receptionist, just like Mrs. 
Mandell, The Walrus, had once done in the 
eighth grade when J. had only wanted to 
go to the bathroom. And suddenly lurch- 
ing forward, the receptionist cracked with 
a squeaky-door creek like the Wicked 
Witch of the West, "And don't even think 
about stealing any of our paperclips while 
you're here, like the rest of them. We 
count 'em." Apparently pleased with the 
shock she must have been able to see on J.'s 
face, she let loose a shrill cackle that sent 
chills through J. She was flabbergasted. 
How could this be happening in the cor- 
porate world? Maybe the receptionist was 
just trying to be funny, the cluck. But 
maybe she herself was overreacting. She 
had gotten up much earlier than usual 
and stayed up late with Ted "When We 
Come Back" Koppel and the Experts. 
Radiation was seeping into Russia and 
mixing with the world's winds. Even if it 
posed no immediate danger to America, 
she still felt threatened and undermined by 
something ominous, something basically 
inimical to life, something entirely mys- 
terious. It must be that she hadn't gotten 
enough sleep and was dulled and on edge. 
Yet the receptionist was cackling loudly. 
The whole building would hear. Could she 
put up with having to bid good morning 
to this woman five days a week for months 
to come? What was she willing to do for 
money? 

The two men in blue suits walked back 
across the lobby, alternating rapidly with 
"No, yours very truly," and "No, very 
truly yours," over and over again, walk- 
ing in purposeful rapture back into the 
corporate thought mines. J. suddenly re- 
membered that she had made a special 
effort that morning to remember to take 
with her a clean handkerchief, as this was 
spring, and her mother had taught her 
long ago that a young lady was always 
prepared during hayfever season with a 
handkerchief. What a comforting scene 
she was able to draw up from safe subur- 
ban days gone by, of a sunny fenced yard 
brimming with bright yellow forsythia, 
patches of shade dancing on cool tuits of 
green grass beneath a huge, friendly old 
oak. 

Two men J. had not seen before, again 
in blue suits, were loitering at the edge of 
the lobby. "Cost-effective," determined one. 
"Efficiency report," tittered the other, over 



and over with a compulsive rhythm. 
"Help," sounded a little voice in the back 
of J.'s mind. She wanted to be warm in 
bed on a cold night, watching a favorite 
rerun on the late show. "Business as usual," 
she thought more loudly to herself, settling 
back in resignation, when suddenly the 
woman behind the desk pulled out a 
great, frosty mug of beer, guzzled it en- 
tirely without pausing, and belched like a 
drunken sailor. She picked at a speck of 
lint on her blouse. She turned up the radio. 
A news blurbing personality was inter- 
viewing an expert on radiation, but they 
were talking about Soviet ice cream. It 
was rather good, they decided. 

Could this be the start of the apoca- 
lypse? Could it come in mounting nibblets 
of chaos, slipping largely unnoticed into a 
catastrophic crescendo increasingly out of 
hand? Could the end of the world catch 
everybody off guard? Was it a mistake to 
accept images of stability in everyday life? 
What if everything known — the children, 
the trees, the beggars, the cities, television. 
Mother Theresa — all were suddenly shuffled 
and redealt beyond the verge and over 
the brink? Terrorism. The space shuttle. 
South Africa. Depleted ozone. Nuclear 
disaster. Bombs. AIDS. Unable to find 
matching shoes for her favorite new pais- 
ley spring print. 

From the radio there came an interview 
with a Soviet functionary. He seemed to 
be saying that John Lermon had been shot, 
but the chanting of the businessmen kept 
her from making out what was going on. 
Her head swirled. Would there never be a 
prince to save her from all this? What 
would it all amount to if this were sud- 
denly It? Was global disaster going to snuff 




SHI OIHdVUS 



PKOCeSSED WORLD 19 



37 



her out before she had even started on 
her dreams? All those lost possibilities. 

A fat man in a dark brown suit was 
shoving a young man in a light grey suit 
into the lobby, almost forcing him to the 
floor. "Evans, your failure to chai\ge that 
one to a two cost this company a great 
deal of money and credibility. Not oi\ly 
are you fired, but I want to see your ass 
in the parking lot at five o'clock so I can 
kick it, and kick it hard." He dragged 
Evans by the shoulder to the doors. Evans, 
obviously greatly embarrassed by the se- 
verity of his blunder, resisted only to the 
extent that was necessary to remain gene- 
rally upright. Shoved out of the door, he 
was thus disposed of. The fat man now 
began bellowing, apparently at J., from 
behind. She sprai\g to her feet and turned 
to face him as he huffed on a brutally 
foul cigar, fists clenched at his side. "We're 
waitii\g for your urinalysis test," he gritted. 
"Now!" How horrible to be treated to such 
menacing before an interview, and by 
such a presumptuous, insubstantial, subur- 
ban jerk. Would they find evidence of the 
two tokes she had taken at a party two 
months ago? This was really beneath dig- 
nity. J. was si>eechless. What if she couldn't 
go? Would everyone in the lobby be al- 
lowed to know? Should she just walk out 
without saying another word or make 
some kind of protest? She wondered if 
she'd be able to get in the last word and 
score a victory. Then she remembered her 
gaping need for a paycheck. The recep- 
tionist, somehow having managed to 
change into a nurse's white uniform, 
stepped up to the fat man, and, stiap- 
pii\g tightly on a little wad of gum, cooed, 
for J.'s benefit, into his ear, "And if she 
doesn't turn in her blue book by three, 
she's got to go to the basement. Not much 
sun down there." 

The blue book! J. was gripped by panic. 
She hadn't even started to write in the blue 
book. How much time was there left? 
How could she write intelligently now? 
She would probably need an A to get the 
job. How could she get an A now? How 
demeaning it was for a person as vulgar 
as this receptionist to hold sway over 
whether she was to get a job. This was 
horrible. And all she could thirxk of was 
her mechanic who smiled too much, the 
ongoing need to have her car tuned and 
the extra thirteen dollars it cost her to 
bounce her last rent check. The commotion 
around her was rising. Two secretaries 
now installed themselves behind her in the 
lobby, giggliitg about how goii\g to "SB 
colon two thirty eight" got them "wiped 
out." She wasn't able to follow what was 
going on. 

A man in grimy overalls strode into the 
lobby and walked right up to her with a 
credit card form, ready to sign, on a dirty 
little plastic tray. He extended it to 
her with a cheap ball-point pen and said 
with a smile, "two hundred and forty 



dollars, Miss, and three cents. Hey, that's 
pretty good. We don't hardly ever get no 
orders that end in three cents." She knew 
she didn't have that kind of money. And 
what was he doing here? Had she called 
him for emergency road service? She had 
to run. She knew she couldn't abandon 
her appointment if she was to have any 
hope of getting the job, but she could 
stand it no longer and dashed into the near- 
est corridor, a lump swelling in her throat. 
"You think they can even tell they're get- 
tin' radiation?" she heard coming over the 
walls of a cubicle. She rounded a comer. 
Sensing that they must be close behind, 
and painfully aware that she was not wear- 
ing the requisite visitor's badge, she dodged 
through a pair of service doors and found 
herself running down a dirt road heading 
across a wide weedy field, just as from 
the parking lot to her right there came a 
swell of passionless violins from loudspea- 
kers atop tall metal poles, playing easy 
listening music twenty-four hours a day. 
There was a railroad crossing just ahead, 
the bells were begirming to clang, the gates 
were coming down. A great freight train 
with four locomotives was rumbling up 
from the plains beyond. J. noticed the re- 
ceptionist at her desk, apparently on wheels, 
now parked in front of the gate, still in a 
nurse's uniform. "OiJy another hour to 
hand in that blue book or it's to the base- 
ment with you," she hollered just before a 
few warning blasts from the train whistle. 
"Not much sun down there." And again 
came her insane cackling against the rising 
throbbing of the approaching engines. 
The blue book, I. couldn't remember 






where she had left the blue book. It must 
be back in the lobby. She had been fight- 
ing off sleep the whole morning. What 
else might she have missed? The blue 
book. Surely she couldn't ask for another 
one at this point. The receptionist would 
think that she was trying to cheat. She 
hadn't even studied. What were the ques- 
tions? What could she write about? Would 
they all know that she was just faking it 
when she finally failed to hand in the blue 
book? She wasn't really qualified to work 
as a word processor. Would she ever get 
a job? The train whistle was blaring. 

J. decided to lie down on the grass, 
just for five minutes, and look at the sky. 
"Just five minutes," she thought, "then I'll 
go back to the lobby and straighten this 
whole thing out." As soon as she had 
begun to doze off, the train roared thun- 
derously by. J. sat up straight with a 
start. A news report was being intoned 
on her bedside clock-radio. Iodine tablets 
were being given to children in Poland. 
What was this happening? Where? The 
time, the armouncer said, was nineteen 
minutes past the hour. She looked at the 
clock. The day was just beginning. The 
blue book! There was no need to turn in 
the blue book! No blue book. \ wave of 
relief washed over her. She let her head 
hit the pillow. "Five more minutes," she 
thought, turning up the radio to make 
sure she wouldn't drift off too far. She 
had to be on time for that interview. She 
needed a job. She gazed over at the spot 
on the waU where the paint had chippjed 
away, leaving a shape that always re- 
minded her of Iceland. "Just five more 

minutes." 

by David Ross 





SHT OIHdYHS 



PROCESSED WORLD 19 



Small Is Not Beautiful 

Life at the Bay Guardian 

— TALE OF TOIL — 



Mt's 9:00 Friday night. The last stragglers 
from the editorial department have de- 
parted. The other typesetter and I have 
the Bay Guardian building to ourselves. 
Two piles of manila folders sit on the 
typesetting machine, to my left. They 
contain the order slips for classified ads. 
One pile gradually dwindles as the folders 
are moved to the other pile, marking my 
progress. The machine occasionally clanks 

as it changes typestyle or size. 

"Love is friendship caught fire!" appears at the 
top of the video screen. Ah, yes. The relationships 
section. This, the fattest of the file folders, should 
keep my fingers busy for the rest of my 9-10-hour- 
long shift. When I first began typesetting the classi- 
fieds, I found the relationships section sort of poig- 
nant. "All those people out there looking to connect 
with somebody. " / thought about the care some peo- 
ple take in choosing just the right words. But as 
the Friday nights came and went, I soon became 
jaded and the words slipped through my fingers in a 
blur. 

The San Francisco Bay Guardian was founded by 
Bruce Brugmann and his wife, Jean Dibble, in 1966. 
Unlike other alternative papers of that era, such as 
the Berkeley Barb and the L.A. Free Press, the BG 
wasn't counter-cultural. Nor did it follow the political 
currents of the '60s New Left, as did the National 
Guardian in New York. Brugmann's journalistic 
background was in the commercial dailies. 

Nonetheless, the Bay Guardian has always had 
political pretensions, and its pages uphold various 
leftist causes — environmental protection, 
abortion rights, rent control. 



We asked: **When is the 
Bay Guardian going to protect its own 
VDT workers?** A BG manager replied: '*Soon.*' 
'^^^'^^Two years later glare shields still hadn't arrived. 



unions, anti-Manhattanization — and expose mono- 
polistic abuses. To the BG "politics" is primarily a 
matter of elections, and, thus, of the politicians who 
control the top-down machinery of American gov- 
ernment. The paper has been supportive of such 
groups as Democratic Socialists of America, Berkeley 
Citizens Action, and Tom Hayden's now-defunct 
Campaign for Economic Democracy. 

In 1971 the Bay Guardian was "a chronically strug- 
gling business," writes James Brice, "with a spare 
17,000 subscribers paying for the four issues it ma- 
naged to publish" that year. "Dibble and Brugmann 
hoped the paper could make money," says Brice, "if 
it went weekly" but they lacked the necessary capi- 
tal. Ironically, they got it from their archrivals, the 
big dailies. 

Like a number of other papers in the Bay Area, 
the BG had filed an antitrust suit in the late 60's 
against the two remaining dailies in San Francisco, 
the Hearst -owned Examiner and the Chronicle. The 
two dailies had merged their advertisii\g and produc- 
tion operations, an action authorized by the News- 
paper Preservation Act of 1965, which granted a 
special antitrust exemption to daily newspapers. 

In May 1975, Brugmann and Dibble dropped their 
lawsuit in exchange for an out-of-court settlement of 
$500,000. (The lawyers got about $200,000.) This 
was a rather shrewd move as the papers that pur- 
sued the lawsuit to the end (such as the Pacific Sun) 
eventually lost. 

When the BG became a free weekly in the late '70s, 
the larger circulation and weekly schedule 
enabled the paper to capture a 
growing share of the 
Bay Area 




PROC£iSED WORIO 19 






^ vV.^ 




advertising market. Although advertising 
by the major local retailers (Macy's, Em- 
porium Capwell, etc.) remains safely in 
the pocket of the big dailies, the BG's 
increased circulation made it attractive to 
national advertisers, and the full-page ads 
for cigarettes and liquor contributed con- 
siderably to BG revenue. The paper made 
its first profit in fiscal 1982. From January 
1982 to January 1985 the paper's classified 
ad lineage increased from 20 cents to 60 
cents, this means the paper's classified ad 
revenue increased by approximately 495%. 
And in 1984 management increased the 
print-rvm of its entertainment section to 
100,000 copies, and then jacked up the 
rates for entertainment advertising. 

The BG's craven reliance on business ad- 
vertising necessarily shapes its editorial 
direction. The packet distributed to po- 
tential advertisers candidly admits this: 
"The Guardian tailors its editorial ma- 
terial to [anl audience" of 24-to-36-year-old 
"self -involved consumers." "EXPOSE 
YOURSELF! to 180,000 hot young pro- 
fessionals with money to bum." Certain 
issues each year were planned out in ad- 
vance so as to appeal to specific segments 
of the business community (consumer 
electronics, wine, etc.) 

Despite the BG's new-found profitability 
and ever-growing production pressures, 
wages remained low. In 1982 production 
artists and proofreaders were paid about 
$5.50 per hour. By 1985 the rate had inched 
up from $6.00 to $6.50. Typesetters were 
paid $5.50 when I was hired in 1982; 
today the starting rate is $7.50. Pay for 
clerical and sales staff in Classified was 
approximately the same. 

It was considered a privilege to work in 
Editorial but pay in that department was, 
if anything, even lower. Editorial staff is 
paid a salary, which enables the BG to 
avoid overtime pay. At the end of 1984, the 
copy editor was making the equivalent 
of $6.50 an hour, while some editorial 
staffers were paid even less. Early in 1985, 
the woman hired to compile the weekly 
entertainment listings had been assured a 
four-day week for $150. But she found 
that the job required a 40-hour week, and 
so she decided to have a chat with Alan 
Kay, the managing editor. "Am I going 
to get paid for Fridays?" she asked. Alan 
put his head in his hands, then looked up 
at her. "How about a restaurant meal?" he 
asked plaintively. Her pay amounted to less 
than $4 per hour. 

ENTER DISTRICT 65 

I was hired in 1982 towards the end of 
a year-long effort to organize the staff 
into District 65. District 65, a union of 
textile and dry goods wholesale workers 
originally founded by Communists in the 
'30s, has organized publishing industry 
workers in New York City in recent years. 
Here in San Francisco, District 65, now 
affiliated to the United Auto Workers 



(UAW), is the union of the Mother Jones 
staff. 

Low pay and lack of any say in decis- 
ions seemed to be the two main areas of 
concern among BG workers. When man- 
agement learned that members of the 
staff were trying to persuade co-workers 
to join a union, a meeting was called. 
Brugmann ranted about how uruons would 
MEAN "outside control" of the paper. 

On the issue of low pay, management 
pleaded poverty. Members of the staff 
responded by asking what salaries manage- 
ment were getting. If the paper's finances 
are limited, a number of staffers thought, 
then management salaries should be re- 
duced to allow raises for the lowest paid. 
But BG management refused to tell us 
how much money managers were taking 
out of the paper. 

About this time a meeting with a repre- 
sentative of District 65 was held for BG 
workers. The issues of the paper's editori- 
al direction and its increasing subservi- 
ence to advertisers were raised, along 
with the idea of lowering management 
salaries so as to raise workers' pay. 
"Unions can't take on issues of editorial 
content, or ask that managers' salaries 
be lowered," Dibble asserted. 

What she was getting at is that the 
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) 
and courts carmot require employers to 
negotiate these issues. But just because 
the government won't compel an employer 
to negotiate contested issues doesn't mean 
unions can't raise them. A workers or- 
ganization can try to fight for anything it 



wants to. What workers can achieve ul- 
timately depends upon the power they can 
bring to bear on the situation. This is 
affected by such factors as internal co- 
hesion among the workers and support in 
the community. This is true even for issues 
that employers are nominally required by 
law to negotiate, such as wages, hours and 
benefits. The government can't be counted 
on to support workers' demands. 

Some members of the BG staff were 
dissatisfied with Ehstrict 65's rather ruirrow, 
legalistic approach. What was needed was 
an independent organization, some of us 
thought, an organization that we could 
control directly. An independent group 
did continue for a while, but eventually 
stopped meeting. Nonetheless, a pattern of 
solidarity and mutual consultation had 
been established and continued ii\formally. 

THE STRIKE IN 1976 
As the District 65 organizing drive 
fizzled out, about a dozen people quit. 
This was not the first BG unionization 
attempt. The first such effort led to an 
NLRB vote in December 1975, which 
certified the Bay Area Typographical 
Union (ITU) and the Newspaper Giiild as 
the recognized unions at the paper. 

Staff pay had been very low in the 
early '70s— base rates then ranged from 
$2.50 to $3.75 per hour. Benefits were 
nonexistent. A long-standing graffito in 
the employees' lavatory had the words 
"Guardian health plan" inked in large 
letters, with an arrow pointing to a draw- 



Continued from last issue 



"^^i^mifi^^m^ 



O^'^^Tfoi^ laModKoW 




PROCESSED WORLD 79 



ing of a book. The book was entitled 
"Holy Bible. " 

In its early days the paper had an in- 
formal atmosphere and lines of authority 
were rather vague — not unusual at small 
"start-up" companies. Then came the 
$300,000 from the anti-trust settlement. 
"The deathly poor newspaper that had 
shared its poverty with its beggarly staff 
now seemed richly endowed," writes 
James Brice.* 

But decisions about what to do with the 
money were quickly made by those at the 
top, before staffers had a chance to have 
any say over what should be done with 
it. Money was poured into new type- 
setting equipment and a down-payment on 
a building. "The settlement made us feel 
more left out of the decision-making pro- 
cess," recalled Katy Butler (now a Chron- 
cle reporter). At the same time, the change 
to a weekly schedule meant increased pro- 
duction pressures. 

Though staffers were concerned about 
the low wages and lack of benefits or job 
security, these issues were "secondary to 
job satisfaction and worker participation 
in decision-making," according to Brice. 
"A union seemed to be a sure way to gain 
leverage." Hence the vote for the ITU and 
Newspaper Guild. 

After six months of table-pounding ne- 
gotiations, the union reduced its wage 
demand to 25 cents per hour across-the- 
board. Employees also wanted one week 



notice of termination, an agreed grievance 
procedure, limited sick pay, and pay for 
overtime. But the BG refused these de- 
mands, and in June of 76, 21 employees, 
both full-time and part time walked out. 
The bitter strike — marked by vandalism 
and sabotage — dragged on for eight 
months. 

Recently, Bruce Brugmann has described 
this struggle as an attempt by "the unions 
from the local newspaper monopoly ... to 
impose their standard contract on a strug- 
gling, competitive, independent small 
business."* The concerns of the workers 
thus disappear, they become non-entities. 
Funny how he was no less opposed, in 
1982 to District 65, which has no con- 
tracts at the "monopoly" dailies. 

INFORMAL SOLIDARITY 

Informal solidarity, as I mentioned, had 
continued to exist in the wake of the Dis- 
trict 65 organiziiTg drive even though no 
on-going organization had gotten en- 
trenched at the BG. This was necessary to 
deal with the BG's arbitrary management 
practices. An incident in 1984 illustrates 
this. 

The BG advertises its job openings in 
the classified section of the paper each 
week. The BG Employee Manual states 
that notice of openings must be posted 
and current employees given preference. 
However, while typesetting the BG job ads 
one week, the typesetters came across an 



advertisement for an ad designer. 

But the BG already had an ad designer, 
a Japanese immigrant who had done the 
job for a number of years. Management 
had tried to demote him a couple of years 
before, but then backed down. Anyway, a 
group of artists and typesetters protested 
the rurming of this ad, but our boss dis- 
claimed responsibility for this violation of 
written policy and past guarantees. Some 
time that weekend the job ad disappeared 
from the classified page flats and the ad 
was erased from computer disk. 

BG management were not very happy 
about this sabotage, we heard, and rumors 
of firings were in the air. "If they fire any- 
once, we should all go on strike," one woman 
remarked to me. I think quite a few pro- 
duction staff members felt that way. How- 
ever, a meeting was held and we were re- 
assured that no demotion was going to 
take place. At the same time, four people 
were singled out for written warnings 
about "tampering with the work product." 

In the wake of this incident some of us 
met with a business agent from the Graphic 
Communications Union (GCIU). The press 
operators at the shop where the BG was 
printed belong to this union. If we ever 
went on strike, we knew that the first 
thing we'd want to do would be to appeal 
to the press operators to refuse to print the 
paper. 

The business agent gave us a copy of 
the printing industry master contract. 



* "A look back at the strike nobody won," 
Mediafile, June, 1973 



* Bill Mandel's column, SF Examiner, Oct. 29, 1986. 






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PROCESSED WORLD 19 



41 



which some of us discussed later. The 
worst clause in the contract stated: "There 
will be no strike or other econonuc pressure 
through concerted action by the employees 
and/or the union." In other words, workers' 
hands are tied while any beefs inch through 
the bureaucratic grievance machinery 
to final arbitration. "But the only way we 
are able to get anything around here is 
through collective pressure," one BG 
staffer commented. 

The contract also stipulated that dues 
be deducted from the employees' pay- 
checks and then sent directly to the union. 
In decades past, dues were not deducted 
and shop stewards had to go around 
hustling the members' dues, which gave 
members the opportunity to push their 
concerns directly. 

Why couldn't BG employees remain 
independent and still appeal to the press 
operators to not print the paper in the 
event of a strike? Another clause in the 
press operators' contract explains the 
problem: "Employees ... shall not be re- 
quired to cross a picket line because of a 
strike if sanctioned by the Central Labor 
Council ..." This means the printers are 
not allowed to take action to support a 
strike— such as refusing to print a struck 
paper— without the approval of the top 
local AR-CIO officials. Without such 
sanction, the printers would be at risk of 
losing their jobs. The purpose of this sort 
of contract is to ensure that workers soli- 
darity is controlled by top officials rather 
than the workers themselves. The em- 
ployers gain by the union's promise not 
to disrupt production and the officials gain 
control over the labor movement. 



Even if the bureaucratic AFL-CIO-type 
unions encourage little real solidarity be- 
tween workers in different workplaces, 
small groups of workers will tend to seek 
the protection of these unions because they 
offer at least the promise of greater lever- 
age, however illusory this may be. This 
tendency is likely to prevail until there 
emerges an independent workers move- 
ment that can provide an alternative for 
groups of workers seeking a larger move- 
ment to ally with. 

OBSTACLES TO WORKER 
ORGANIZATION 

The BG has been able to maintain a 
"union-free environment" and contain 
periodic bouts of disaffection through a 
combination of circumstances. For one 
thing, many BG staffers are employed 
part-time. I've overheard the production 
manager say to a prospective new hire, 
'This job is just to get some extra money." 
When people have another job, they are 
less likely to regard the part-time job as 
important enough to commit time to or- 
ganizing with others. A workforce be- 
comes fragmented as part-timers predomi- 
nate. When people don't see each other 
regularly, if at all, they develop less of 
the cohesion that is natural to a group of 
people who work together, and which is 
necessary for collective action. 

The large number of part-timers lowers 
BG labor costs. Less than half of the pro- 
duction staff worked the minimum 30 
hours a week needed to qualify for health 
insurance. Low wages, minimal benefits 
and lousy conditions tend to produce turn- 
over. While I worked at the- BG, the 



average production employee stayed only 
eight months. 

Organization among workers in small, 
low-wage business like the BG is more 
likely to develop when there is a broader 
movement with which groups of workers 
in particular workplaces can ally them- 
selves. A nonbureaucratic workers move- 
ment, that is actually run by rank-and-file 
workers themselves, would not be as de- 
pendent on institutionadized contract bar- 
gaining to have a presence in workplaces. 
This would make it easier for workers to 
participate in the movement despite high 
turnover and movement from job to job. 

The Industrial Workers of the Worid 
(I WW) was an example of such a move- 
ment in the earlier decades of this century. 
Many of the people who worked in mines, 
aboard ships, on construction projects, 
and on farm harvests in the Western states 
in those years moved around from job to 
job. Nevertheless, the IWW was able to 
maintain effective organizations in a 
number of these industries despite the ab- 
sence of a stable workforce. The move- 
ment's presence in a workplace didn't de- 
pend upon a union contract or govern- 
ment certification but on workers acting 
"in union" with each other. Workers re- 
mained members of the union no matter 
where they worked. And workers in one 
workplace were less isolated as they had 
a sense of being part of a larger move- 
ment. The mix of occupations and indus- 
tries may be different today, but the fail- 
ures of the top-down, institutionalized 
unions show clearly the need for a new, 
non-bureaucratic workers movement. 

— Tom Wetzel 



lllllllllllllll 



lllllllllllllllllll 



lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll 

OF VDTs &. Hypocrisy 



iiiiiiiiii 



In their June 6, 1984 issue the BG 
published an expose by Loren Stein 
and Laurie Fink on the health hazards 
associated with work on video display 
terminals (VDTs). "In the U.S. and Eu- 
rope," Stein and Ffnk reported, "40% 
to 80% of VDT operators responding 
to medical surveys have reported they 
suffer from eyestrain, chronic head- 
aches, back pain, blurred vision and 
other ailments. VDT operators have 
also been the single largest source of 
health complaints received by the Na- 
tional Institute of Occupational Safety 
and Health (NIOSH) during the past 
few years." 

In her women's health column in that 
same issue, Alice Wolfson wrote: "A 
1981 study of VDT operators conducted 
by INIOSH] found that clerical workers 
using VDTs had the highest occupa- 
tional stress ever recorded, higher 
even than air traffic controllers." The 
BG had also published an earlier article 
on this same topic. "VDTs and Health," 
In August 1983. This series of articles 
appeared around the time Tom Hayden 



introduced his VDT worker health bill 
into the California legislature, which 
the BG supported editorially. 

At about the same time the BG hired 
a new production manager who tried 
to revamp labor relations in her depart- 
ment. Staffers were invited to air their 
concerns at a department meeting. 
We typesetters, who work on VDTs, 
pointed out such problems as glare 
from overhead fluorescent lights (which 
causes eye-strain and headaches) and 
lousy chairs (which cause backaches). 
We proposed that the BG acquire glare 
shields and sturdy chairs, and that 
typesetters be encouraged to take fre- 
quent breaks. 

The production manager agreed. We 
perused office furniture catalogs and 
found chairs In the $150-$ 180 range 
that were sturdy and height-adjustable. 
And we tracked down an Inexpensive 
glare shield, which also guards against 
low-level radiation, for about $55 each. 
Only two of each Item were needed; 
the total bill would be less than $500. 
We were assured that these items 



would be purchased. 

The BG did buy new chairs but they 
weren't the ones we had chosen, and, 
being much cheaper, soon fell apart. 
But the glare shields never showed. 
Soon typesetters posted signs near 
our machines, encouraging five minute 
breaks every hour. But these were soon 
taken down. We posted another sheet 
on the lavatory wall, asking: "When Is 
the BG going to protect Its own VDT 
workers?" A BG manager then taped a 
reply next to it stating that glare shields 
would be purchased soon. But two 
years later they still hadn't arrived. 

Early In 1985 the BG acquired eight 
microcomputers and a $2,000 compu- 
ter-to-typesetter Interface. Without 
warning, several typesetting and proof- 
reading shifts were eliminated -along 
with several part-timers. The editorial 
staff now work on VDTs, and the health 
hazards that we typesetters pointed 
out in 1984 now endanger them as 
well. 

—Tom Wetzel 



PROCESSED WORLD 19 



Byting Into Books 



A Review of: Cultures in Contention (Ed. Doug- 
las Kahn and Diane Neumaier. 1985, Seattle, 
Real Comet Press). 



V, 



'ery slick, this weighty creative-sub- 
versive activity disguised as a coffee-table 
picture book. There are lots of photos of 

troublemakers at work, of "greatest hits" leaflets 
(the early 70s "Jump for Jesus" poster calling for mass 
suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge), and of comics 
(story of the Yippies tossing dollar bills onto the 
floor of the NY Stock Exchange). There are also 
excellent reproductions of Hans Haacke's photomon- 
tages, Judy Baca's murals, billboards, alternative and 
defaced, even lesbian postcards! But back to the 
weighty — weighty for whom? The book lies some- 
where between the turgid culture page of your local 
"progressive" paper and the arcane universe of de- 
anti-post-deep structuralmodemism art "discourse." 
Its essays mostly reflect efforts to produce political 
statements in live performance (singing, theater, 
demonstrations) or in the visual realm (posters, mu- 
rals, displays, video, art world stuff). There is a little 
on writing or film and even less on popular music, 
though these have perhaps gotten enough coverage 
elsewhere. Most of the work comes out of the U.S., 
but there is also a good deal from places such as 
Nicaragua, Jamaica, Kenya, England, Japan, and 
Germany. 

I am less interested in how the book addresses 
questions in the abstract, like the relation of art to 
politics, than in the light the book casts on the crea- 
tive/political projects 1 have occasionally engaged in 
and obsessed over with friends and coworkers in the 
past several years. Inventive theater and props, fre- 
quent humor, irony or sarcasm, and my rediscovery 
that radicalism could be fun were all invigorating 
after my exit from politically correct, left Dullsville. 
But this is the eighties, baby; every firing, every fic- 
tion, every authoritarian insult, every new 
"theatrical" invasion or 
bombing raid. 



A Review of: The Whale and the Reactor — A 
Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology, 
by Langdon Winner, University of Chicago 
Press, 1986. 



"Writers who venture beyond the most 
pedestrian, dreary conceptions of tools 
and uses to investigate ways in which 

technological forms are implicated in the basic pat- 
terns and problems of our culture are often greeted 
with the charge that they are merely 'antitechnology' 
or 'blaming technology.' All who have recently 
stepped forward as critics in this realm have been 
tarred with the same idiot brush, an expression of 
the desire to stop a much needed dialogue rather 
than enlarge it. If any readers want to see the present 
work as 'antitechnology, ' make the most of it. That 
is their topic, not mine. " — Langdon Winner 



.his is a fine, ambitious book. More than that, 
it's a good radical introduction to the politics of tech- 
nology. It's short and reasonably well written, yet 
it covers all the bases, and covers them well. It does 
suffer a dumb title, but we'll kindly assume that the 
publisher forced it on Winner. 

Winner begjiK his "search for limits" with a call for 
a philosophy of technology, the task of which "is 
to examine critically the nature and significance of 
artificial aids to human activity." With the techno- 
sphere supplanting the ecosphere as our most "natu- 
ral" habitat, it's getting hard to see the image for the 
pixels. The commonplaces of technology criticism — 
in which the machine is taken as either neutral, evil 
or progressive — have long been obstacles to a deeper 
perspective. It's well to step back, not in the_ 
interests of academic 
theorizing but 

cont'd, on p. 46 



cont'd, next page 



''Are there no shared 
ends that matter to us any longer 
other than the desire to be affluent while avoid- 
ing the risk of cancer? The answer may be no/* 

^Langdon Winner 



PUOCfSSfO WORLD 19 



B 



OOKS! 



every new hysterical media outburst over 
sex, drugs, or disappearing kids tells me 
again that the mischievous little actions I 
engage in DONT MEAN SHIT (Now, now, 
another voice soothes, you never know 
what an action leads to... Remember Nixon 
swearing at his tape recorder about demon- 
strators ruining his "peace negotiations?"). 

Anyhow, I don't w«mt to give up doing 
these fun projectsi I just want to have a 
better idea of where it's all going (yes, I 
admit it, I still want to be politically 
correct I). Getting back to the book, its 
range of writing about oppositional art is 
incredibly broad and the editors' introduc- 
tion was too general to make the connec- 
tions I was lookii\g for. But as I skipped 
around, submerged correspondences and 
dialogues appecired, and my favorite nag- 
ging questions popped up; these connec- 
tions will be the focus of my remarks here. 

For one submerged dialogue, compare 
the lengthy interview with Los Angeles 
Chicana muralist Judy Baca to Peter King's 
article on "underground" billboard altera- 
tion in Australia. Baca's efforts to cover 
southern California concrete with images 
of her people's journey north and their 
fate in the land of prosperity are amazing. 
By combining community and youth- 
organizing with pressure on state agencies 
for permission and funding, Baca had in- 
troduced alternative images of history and 
community beneath the glare of Holly- 
wood spectacle. She and her friends have 
also trained a growing number of young, 
visual eirtists outside the rarified art-school 
world. The Australian grafittists, on the 
other hand, use illegal and essentially anti- 
state methods. Drawing on the environ- 
mental movement in Australia, they have 
not only attacked advertising for un- 
healthy goodies like cigarettes and cola but 
redefined advertising's "transparent" mani- 
pulation (as in the "Emperor's New 
Clothes") as cultural pollution, billboards 
advertising local "Eyewitless News" being 
an example. While more temporary than 
a mural, these alterations attract more 
attention. And though the grafittists weren't 
able to involve people as easily as in a 
mural project, they did manage to draw a 
considerable number of participants into 
an extended campaign. Its cumulative ef- 
fects and the ensuing public trials further 
amplified their work. 

Even more striking is the contrast be- 
tween Abbie Hoffman's reminiscences of 
counterculture theater actions and the 
carefully plotted media events described 
in "Feminist Media Strategies for Political 
Performance." The contrast is partly one of 
different eras; the Hoffman piece is six- 
ties-ish in its colorful rapid-fire description. 



IRS RULES 

today the IRS ruled 
that anti-penpirants 
& recreational drugs 
can no longer be 
deducted as work- 
related expenses. 

William Talcott 



sharp observation, and superficial analysis, 
while the piece by Suzanne Lacy and Lucy 
Labowitz is pure seventies: a functional 
how-to guide for doing theatrical actions 
for media impact that aims to scientifi- 
cally manipulate the media rather than 
short-circuit it. Hoffman's stories are a joy 
to read. Lacy's and Labowitz's technical 
summary style, however, drains away the 
excitement and creativity of such actions. 
Their distinctions between artist and acti- 
vist, focus on contacting established groups 
already dealing with performance, and em- 
phasis on tight organization, while being 
useful, practical politics, reflect the frag- 
mentation and reformist boredom that 
plague us, particularly in times of political 
quiescence. Yet Hoffman's piece lacks the 
distanced reflection that one expects twen- 
ty years after an action. Both pieces focus 
on how a message is communicated and 
transformed through the medium of com- 
mercial television; in that sense both are 
useful to activists and troublemakers and 
supersede the typical, leftist unconscious- 
ness of the theatrical aspect of a public 
action. Hoffman clearly shows the power 
of a single image, such as throwing money 
onto the floor of the New York Stock Ex- 
change, but he is guilty of a sixties relapse, 
when he suggests that interpretation and 
analysis of actions/ images should be left 
to the intellectuals. 

These disputes also apply to Peter Dunn's 
and Loraine Leeson's "The Changing 
Picture of Docklands" and Tom Ward's 
'The Situationists Reconsidered." Dunn 
and Leeson describe their experience of 
working as political artists in conjunc- 
tion with union and tenant groups 
fighting redevelopment in East London. 
They start their essay with a polemic against 
the widespread, leftist notion of working- 
masses-as-dupes-of-false-consciousness, 
which the left is supposed to crack with 
the well-aimed toss of a brilliant Marxist 
concept. Instead they cirgue for interven- 
tions that engender critical, deconstructive 
thought, interventions which are both 
visually attractive and emotionally moving. 
They also criticize the academic tendency 
to deconstruct elements of the capitalist 
media spectacle, which ignores actual 



struggles when such deconstruction be- 
comes visible. 

The authors worked on a series of bill- 
board messages, displayed in a central 
neighborhood location, which questioned 
the redevelopment process in the area. 
The continuity of the billboard series 
(reprinted in the book) attracted attention, 
designed as it was to be peeled, layer after 
layer, in a kind of metamorphosis. Their 
working method depended on repeated 
consultation with local community acti- 
vists and organizations. Fundii\g was ob- 
tained through London's Labour-dominated 
government (since dismantled by Thatcher). 
Against art-world elitism, the authors 
redefine their roles as servants to the 
cause. Artist and activist are presented 
as fixed categories — artsy intellectual vs. 
stolid leaders of the proletariat — simplis- 
tically assuming that artists are middle- 
class and school-trained, and activists are 
automatically representative of local people 
in struggle. Though I oversimplify their 
argument here, they never once deal with 
the bureaucratization of working people's 
representatives in the twentieth century, 
a dilemma for both Labour Party acti- 
vists in Britain and labor and community 
activists in the U.S. 

In comparision Tom Ward's essay is 
spicy and pungent. It attempts to sum- 
marize the history and outlook of the 
French Situationists and to evaluate the 
work of their American counterparts, par- 
ticularly in the San Francisco Bay Area. 
In doing so, he documents Processed 
World's origins and makes some acidic 
observations about the U.S. left as a 
whole. The Situationists eschewed from 
the start the distinctions that Dunn and 
Leeson hold so dear; rather than working 
as "artists" with "activists," the Situation- 
ists created a kind of artistic activism, 
seeking to realize art in everyday life and 
thus surpassing the Dadaist and Surrealist 
projects on which they based themselves. 
Instead of building the norms of electoral 
politics into the methods, the Situationists 
sought to explode them, following the lead 
of antibureaucratic revolutions ranging 
from the Paris Commune of 1871 to the 
wildcat French general strike of May 1968. 
No servants of the people here; all activity 
is undertaken "for ourselves," and every- 
body else is urged to do the same by 
forming assemblies of self-rule rather than 
accepting party platforms. 

Ward's piece is pieppered with the draw- 
ings, mock advertisements, and promotional 
hoaxes produced by his comrades over 
the years in the brilliant and corrosive 
style they are known for. All these "art 
works" were tactically used to jolt people 
out of familiar routines and into some 

cont'd, on p. 46 
PROCESSED WORLD 19 



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cont'd, from p. 44 

kind of revolutionary motion. Yet, as 
Ward points out, scandalous propaganda 
rarely achieves any visible effect after its 
big splash. Its tactics and small-group con- 
text should be remedied, he writes, by the 
development of medium-range strategy, 
program and organization, a tantalizing 
notion. How such mundane, medium-range 
projections can be reconciled with the 
world-destroying absolutism of the Situa- 
tionist vision is not really explained. 



So what does this have to do with the 
aesthetics of feminist video, with Sweet 
Honey in the Rock's black feminist a ca- 
pella music, or with Ernesto Cardenal's 
address to UNESCO on Nicaraguan cul- 
ture? I'm not sure, but it's all in the same 
book. Probably most people who buy the 
book don't care; they are interested in a 
few pieces that are right up their alleys 
and maybe later they'll look at the other 
essays they'd never read otherwise. If the 



book lacks a strict political or stylistic 
identity, it also reflects the actual breadth 
and variety of creative political activity 
today. That's my kind of identity confu- 
sion. From such wide-ranging reflection, 
creative politics can start to develop a 
coherent strategy for its own growth. 



— fcy Jejf Coldthorpe 



cont'd, from p. 43 

to wake up and see straight. 

We are currently. Winner says, asleep, 
victims of a "technologiccil somnambulism" 
that has us stvimbling through a fragmented 
chaotic and increasingly technological 
world with no language with which to 
understand it. Vast social transformations 
are routinely initiated with little, if any, 
attention given to their sodal meaiung. 
The auto transforms the city, the nuke 
transforms war, the computer transforms 
everything, yet the conventional wisdom is 
that the tumult of mechanization is only 
an unfortunate collection of "side-effects." 
Wirmer's wisdom differs: "New Worlds are 
being made," he tells us, and "there is 
nothing secondary" about this phenomenon. 
It is, in fact, the most important accomplish- 
ment of any new technology." 

Winner doesn't try to develop a full 
blown philosophy here. There are a few 
important pointers— to Wittgenstein and 
to Marx — but most of his effort has gone 
into clearing the underbrush. Wirmer's 
book is a collection of critiques: of tech- 
nological determinism ("Being saddled 
with it is like attempting to describe all 
instances of sexual intercourse with only 
the concept of rape"), of cost/benefit anal- 
ysis and its flatland language of "risks," 
"side effects" and "impacts,' of Appropri- 
ate Technology, the Computer Revolution, 
Deep Ecology, and the sanitized rhetoric 
of Values. 

In place of jdl these tidy systems, he in- 
vites us to stop equivocating, and simply 
proceed with the assumption that tech- 
nology structures our societies and our 
lives: "In an important sense we become 
the beings who work on assembly lines, 
who talk on telephones, who do our figur- 
ing on pocket calculators, who eat pro- 
cessed foods, who clean our homes with 
powerful chemicals." He proposes that 
we spend our energies making finer dis- 
tinctions, with politics and the quality of 
life as our crucial criteria. 

Do Artifacts Have Politics? 

The central problem of radical technol- 



ogy criticism is to understand the struc- 
turing effects of technology while at the 
same time avoiding determinism: to grasp 
artifacts as social choices, accretions of 
history and power. Winner does a great 
job, and in place of the false generaliza- 
tions that litter the debate he proposes the 
obvious — some technologies are "inher- 
ently political" and some are not. He wants 
to avoid not only determinism, but denial 
as well. If we see humanity as swept help- 
less before the machine (whether to pro- 
gress or pandemonium) we haven't a 
chance of making sense of modem life. 
But the un-determinism that sees tech- 
nology as irrelevant to freedom and cul- 
ture is just as bad, for it keeps us from 
seeing the 'legislative" impacts of tech- 
nology, the "ongoing process of world 
making" that is the social truth of tech- 
nological change. 

it's sometimes difficult to remember that, 
before the computer-crazed days of the 
late 70s, technology — "the machine" — 
was often seen as both amoral and totali- 
tarian. Industrialism was a mad evil that 
transcended East and West, and pollution 
the proper symbol of technological prow- 
ess gone sour and suicideil. This was a 
bit simpleminded, to be sure, but it's not 
difficult to argue that it's still closer to the 
truth than the atmospherics of the micro- 
computer age, where Apples replace Nukes 
as the symbols of the technological future, 
and scientific optimism once again be- 
comes the order of the day. 

There have been many commentaries 
on the computer age, many of them framed 
with radical intent. But few have sought to 
view the false promises of computeriza- 
tion against the grim background of eco- 
logical destabilization and nuclear terror. 
Winner is an exception: he analyses the 
ecological with the electronic, and sees 
both within a common technological and 
institutional regime. 

For Winner, technological regimes, like 
institutional regimes, can be either plural- 
istic or totalitarian: there are "two ways 
in which artifacts can contain political 
properties. First are instances in which the 



invention, design and arrarigement of a 
specific technological device or system be- 
comes a way of settling an issue in the 
affairs of a particular community .. .ex- 
amples of this kind are fairly straight- 
forward and easily understood. Second 
are cases of what can be called 'iiiherently 
political technologies,' man-made systems 
that appear to require or to be strongly 
compatible with particular kinds of po- 
litical relationships. Arguments about 
cases of this kind are much more trouble- 
some and closer to the heart of the irwtter." 
Some technologies are flexible, and lend 
themselves to various constructions — 
solar power generators, for example, can 
be decentralized, but they can also be 
shaped into awkward multi-megawatt 
facilities, even more absurd than large 
coal and oil-powered generating stations. 
It is precisely because some technologies 
are so flexible that their forms and con- 
sequences must be understood socially, in 
terms of the forces that shape their de- 
sign and arrangement. Other technologies 
however, aren't flexible, but rather "strong- 
ly, perhaps unavoidably, liiiked to particu- 
lar institutionalized patterns of power and 
authority. Here the initial choice about 
whether or not to adopt something is de- 
cisive in regard to its consequences. There 
are no alternative physical designs or ar- 
rangements that would make a significant 
difference; there are, furthermore, no 
genuine possibilities for creative inter- 
vention by different social systems — 
capitalist or socialist — that could change 
the intractability of the entity or signifi- 
cantly alter the quality of its political 
effects." 

Inherently Political Technologies 

The idea of technologies which lock 
their human users into prestructured and 
confining paths is both comf)elling and 
venerable. Plato made it in Republic, and 
Engels used it in On Authority, a polemic 
against anarchism. According to Engels, 
the necessity for rigid factory discipline is 
"fixed by the authority of the steam," and 
society, which he likens to a ship on high 



46 



PROCCSSED WOKLD 19 



BOOK 



S! 



seas, must have its captain. Winner does 
not disagree that some technologies are 
authoritarian in just this way, but he does 
shift the notion in a crucial way. For Win- 
ner, it's not "technology" in the abstract 
but specific technologies that are the prob- 
lem. Examples must be carefully chosen. 
More to the point is "the hypothesis that 
the construction and day-to-day operation 
of many systems of production, trans- 
portation, and communications in the 
nineteenth and twentieth centuries re- 
quire the development of . . . large-scale, 
centralized, hierarchical organizations ad- 
ministered by highly skilled managers." 

The matter is complicated. Technologies 
can't really be separated from the insti- 
tutional frameworks within which they are 
grown, nor does reality restrict itself to 
simple choices between flexible and author- 
itarian technology. Advocates of solar 
energy often claim that it is "strongly com- 
patible with, but does not strictly require" 
decentralized social relations; they no 
longer make stronger claims. Advocates 
of nuclear power have been known to 
claim it to be a "flexible technology whose 
adverse social effects can be fixed by 
changing the design parameters of reactors 
and nuclear waste disposal systems." 

Do the social consequences of specific 
technologies derive from unavoidable so- 
cial responses to intractable properties in 
the things themselves? Or are they better 
seen as patterns imposed by governing 
bodies, rulir\g classes, or other social or 
cultural institutions? This is the important 
question, and it must be asked in specific 
terms about specific technologies developed 
for specific purposes by specific social 
groups. In the end we must learn to dis- 
tinguish technologies which can potentially 
be reshaped from those— like nuclear tech- 
nology—for which only the abolitionist 
position is acceptable. 

A Search for Limits 

The idea that technology should be de- 
signed, and even limited, as a means of 
promoting sjsecific social virtues is an old 
one, being found in the works of Thoreau, 
Henrey Adams, Lewis Mumford, Paul 
Goodman, Murray Bookchin and a host 
of other writers, most of whom are now- 
adays dismissed as "romantics" and even 
"pastoralists." Interestingly, recent years 
have seen the revival of the notion that 
circumstances can indeed justify placing 
limits on given technologies. Winner lists 
five reasons currently accepted as legitimate 
grounds for limiting a technology: 

1) It threatens public health or safety 

2) It threatens some vital resource 

3) It degrades the environment (air, land 
or water) 



4) It threatens species and wilderness areas 

5) It causes sodal stresses of an exaggerated 
kind 

But note how narrow these reasons are I 
"Along with ongoing discussions about 
ways to sustain economic growth, national 
competitiveness, and prosperity, these are 
the only matters of technology assessment 
that the general public, decision makers, 
and academics are prepared to take seri- 
ously... Are there no shared ends that 
matter to us any longer other than the de- 
sire to be affluent while avoiding the risk 
of cancer? It may be that the answer is 
no. The prevailing consensus seems to 
be that people love a life of high consump- 
tion, tremble at the thought that it mi^t 
end, and are displeased about having to 
clean up the messes that modem tech- 
nologies sometimes bring. To argue a 
moral position convincingly these days 
requires that one speak to (and not depart 
from) people's love of material well being." 
Winner moves on from our dismal con- 
dition to the compromised and uncertain 
critiques that it has engendered. Noting 
a comment by Paul Goodman that his stu- 
dent audiences could always be counted 
on to respond excitedly to arguments that 
decentralism could be more efficient than 
centralized forms of social organization. 
Winner notes that such an argument is 
good for "catching people's attention; if 
you can get away with it, it is certainly a 
most convincing kind of argument. Be- 
cause the idea of efficiency attracts a wide 
consensus, it is sometimes used as a con- 
ceptual Trojan horse by those who have 
more challenging political agendas they 
hope to smuggle in. But victories won in 
this way are in other respects great losses. 
For they affirm in our words and in our 
methods that there are certain human 
ends that no longer dare be spoken in pub- 
lic. Lingering in that stuffy Trojan horse 
too long, even soldiers of virtue eventually 
suffocate." 
Getting Down to Cases 

The bulk of this book is actually very 



concrete. After his pitch for a philosophy 
of technology, Wiruner gets down to cases. 
There's a good discussion of the Approp- 
riate Technology movement, which Winner 
sees (despite a few Marxist and Anarchist 
exceptions) as essentially a movement for 
consumer choice. "Its political theory— 
build a better mousetrap I" There's a nice 
snide discussion of the "hippy environ- 
mentalist spacemen" at the Whole Earth 
Review, and a serious review of demon- 
stration-project politics and Utopianism. 
There's the New Age, which begins on 
page 74 and ends on 80. There's a long 
and subtle discussion of decentralism, and 
a frontal assault on the ideology of the 
computer revolution. 

Winner spends a lot of time on "Nature," 
reviewing the many roles the concept has 
played in the technology movements of 
the last few decades. Nature appears as a 
stock of economic goods, as an endangered 
Ecosystem, as a source of intrinsic good, 
and finally as a socially formed, and by 
no means natural idea. Ecocatastrophe is 
discussed ("Indeed, there's a certain vul- 
nerability in placing the crux of one's so- 
cial philosophy and policy position on the 
probability of eco<atastrophe. What if 
new data indicate the emergency wasn't 
what you said it was? Are you then obli- 
gated to apologize and fall silent?"), as are 
environmental economics, ecological sur- 
vivalism, and Deep Ecology. Winner's 
done his homework, and he pegs each 
movement pretty well. He's critical, but 
he's fair. 

This is rich ore, and well worth mining. 
It's not brilliant, but perhaps there's 
nothing particularly brilliant to be said 
about the politics of technology. There 
are, however, most assuredly a lot of 
very stupid things to be said, as any cur- 
sory review of the literature will show. 
Few of them appear in these pages. 



—by Tom Athanasiou 




GRAPHIC: I.B. NELSON 



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